Reading books around the world in 2021 (infographic)

Countries highest literacy rates 2021
Countries highest literacy rates 2021

The most detailed and comprehensive book infographic this year puts together the latest facts and figures about reading habits, literacy rates, and popular books.

Back in 2020, we read more books than ever. 35% of the world population read more due to the pandemic and frequent lockdowns. How has the situation evolved the following year?

World Reading Habits 2021 – the new infographic created by Isabel Cabrera for the Global English Editing blog is even more detailed than the previous one. It reveals which countries read the most books, which books and book genres are most popular, and compares literacy rates between people of different ages, among others.

Most data is collected from different sources, so it was not possible to compare the reading stats between continents. That’s why the infographic groups the facts and figures regarding each continent.

At the end of the infographic, you will see a few interesting comparisons between print and ebooks. As you may have expected, the popularity of ebooks is still way behind paper books. In fact, 2021 saw ebook sales decline by 8%, with print books outselling ebooks four to one. In 2021, ebooks made only 9% of total book industry revenue.

The trend is positive for audiobooks. Their popularity is rising, and North America is leading the market with a share of over 46%. Audiobooks are also getting more and more popular in China. Almost 35% of adults and 43% of minors listened to audiobooks last year.

Here are other interesting highlights:

  • Americans read in 2021 almost one-fourth more than last year.
  • Americans aged between 20 and 34 spent about 6.6 minutes reading daily.
  • 39% of Americans prefer newly printed books, and only 5% go for audiobooks.
  • On average, people in Europe spend more than one hour per day reading a book.
  • Finland, Poland, and Estonia are the biggest bookworms, based on the share of people reading books.
  • Almost 17% of the Finnish population claim reading books is one of their main activities.
  • In Asia, readers in India, Thailand, and China spend the most hours reading per week. And China has the highest percentage of everyday book readers.
  • In 2020, almost 35% of adults and 43% of minors in China listened to audiobooks.
  • Reading books is the 5th most popular leisure activity in Africa, with 7 in 10 adults claiming they read for pleasure.
  • The worldwide adult literary rate was 86%, almost unchanged since 2015. The literacy rate is expected to grow to 90% by 2030.
  • Andorra, Luxembourg, Norway, and Liechtenstein are the countries that report 100% literacy rates.
  • Two-third of over 780 million illiterate adults worldwide are female.
  • In age groups, Millennials read more books than any other generation. They mainly use libraries to source reading materials.
  • Boomers and The Silent Generation choose bestsellers, while Generation Z prefers to use social media to find books.
  • 66% of readers believe printed books offer a more unique and fulfilling reading experience than digital format.
  • The publishing industry employs 315 thousand people worldwide.
  • Ebooks sales make only 9% of the total book industry revenue. They have decreased by 8% in 2021 but still are higher than in 2019.
  • Ebook subscription usage is up 26% in 2021, compared to the time before the pandemic.
  • Dues to pandemic-related school closures, more than 100 million children worldwide are falling behind the minimum proficiency level in reading.
  • Book genres that made the most money are romance ($1.4 billion), mystery & crime ($730 million, and spiritual & self-motivation ($720).
  • Over 50% of kids aged between 6 and 17 borrow from school or public libraries.

Please note that it may take longer than usual to load the page, as the visual is long and resource-heavy. Please make sure to visit Isabel Cabrera’s original post on the Global English Editing blog.

Reading books around the world in 2021 - full infographic

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