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Last Updated: Monday, 9 July 2007, 17:54 GMT 18:54 UK
'More reading' than in 1970s
Books have been flying off the shelves
People in the UK seem to have been reading more over the past quarter of a century, a study suggests.

Contrary to expectations it is books that are more popular, according to a team at the University of Manchester.

They analysed thousands of time-use diaries compiled for official census agencies in five countries in 1975 and again at the turn of the millennium.

One theory is books are ideal to fill gaps in people's schedules - and with busier lives there are more gaps.

Women increasingly are reading more than men. The number of people in the UK reading newspapers and magazines has declined, though those who do read them do so for longer.


Research by the Office for National Statistics in 2001 found a quarter of adults had not read a book in the previous 12 months.

This new study found that in 1975, people in the UK spent just three minutes a day reading a book. By 2000 this had risen to seven minutes.

There was a similar increase in Norway but the French far outstripped them - going from 10 minutes a day up to 18.

In the Netherlands there was a slight decline but from a higher base, from 13 minutes to 12 (1995 data). In the US the increase was two minutes, from five to seven.

One of the researchers, at Manchester's school of social sciences, Dale Southerton, said there was a popular perception that people were reading less but all reading had gone up, reading books had gone up the most - and there were 17% more people reading them.

Dr Southerton agreed that an explanation might be simply that books had become cheaper.


But a study in Holland had suggested that the more people's days were fragmented, the more they read, regardless of their educational background.

"Which is completely counter-intuitive but I don't see anything to contradict it."

Another study he had conducted had indicated that people felt they did not have enough time in their days.

Certain activities were almost fixed - like going to work, picking the kids up from school then taking them to ballet lessons - and required them to co-ordinate with others.

Inevitably there were sometimes breaks when the co-ordination was not precise.

"What I'm arguing is that over the last 30 to 40 years the organisation of time has become fragmented, less predictable - someone is late, or you arrive early and are waiting for the kids to come out of school.

"Those moments are good for reading."

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