A Third of Icelanders Read Books Every Day, Study Finds

book literature Icelandic

Icelanders read or listen to an average of 2.4 books a month, according to a new survey conducted by the Icelandic Literature Centre. The survey notes an increase in the number of individuals who read five or more books a month and those who report not reading at all.

One in three reads every day

According to a new survey conducted by the Icelandic Literature Centre – which has been conducted annually since 2017 – the percentage of individuals who “never read” has increased (from 32.1% last year to 40.4% this year). However, so has the percentage of individuals who read five or more books a month. The survey, which was conducted between October 14 and November 8 of this year, comprised 1,409 respondents (out of 2,800).

The survey also found that over a third of Icelanders read or listen to books on a daily basis. The average number of books read per month has risen over the past two years; last year, Icelanders read an average of 2.3 books a month, compared to 2.4 books this year. 65% of respondents stated that they only or mainly read books published in the Icelandic language, which is up from 58% compared to last year.

Gender-based differences

The survey also found significant differences between the genders. According to the results, women read an average of 3 books a month compared to 1.7 among men. The gap between the genders has slightly narrowed between the last two years, however.

Here are a few other takeaways from the survey:

  • Older people read more than younger people; individuals between the ages of 18 and 24, which was the youngest age group to be surveyed, read fewer books on average when compared to older age groups.
  • University graduates read a greater number of books on average when compared to less formally educated individuals.
  • There is no significant difference between the reading habits of capital-area residents and rural residents.
  • Approximately 18% of Icelanders report reading an equal number of books published in Icelandic as in other languages; approximately 14% read more frequently in languages other than Icelandic; and about 3% of respondents stated that they only read books in languages other than Icelandic.
  • People under the age of 34 are more likely to read in languages other than Icelandic when compared to older age groups.
  • 27% of university students said that they read more frequently in languages other than Icelandic.

When it comes to the Icelanders’ taste in reading, most prefer novels, or 59%. Crime fiction was the second most popular genre among respondents.

Just over a third borrow books from libraries

Over a half of respondents, 55%, stated that they received book recommendations from friends and relatives; 35% stated they were influenced by coverage from traditional media; and 31% from social media.

Over the past 12 months, just over a third of Icelanders have borrowed books from libraries. The survey found that women borrow books from the library more frequently than men and parents with two or more children at home borrow books from the library most frequently.

The results also indicate that fewer people are giving books as gifts when compared to last year.

The survey was conducted by the Icelandic Literature Centre in collaboration with the Reykjavík Library, the Association of Icelandic Book Publishers, Hagþenki, the University Library, Reykjavík UNESCO Literary City, and the Writers’ Association of Iceland.

Icelanders Reading More During Pandemic

Books by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir on a shelf.

Icelanders are reading more books and listening to more audiobooks this year than last year. A survey commissioned by the Icelandic Literature Centre shows that Icelanders are now reading 2.5 books per month, up from 2.3 around the same time last year. The survey found that women read more than men, and families with two or more children read more than others in Iceland.

More Reading in Icelandic

More than one third of respondents who listen to audiobooks (36%) said they consume more of them now than they did last year and 18% of those who read traditional books said they read more now than before the pandemic. Audiobook consumption increased overall from last year.

More respondents this year reported reading exclusively or most often in Icelandic than in last year’s survey (61%). Those 18-35 read more in languages other than Icelandic than any other age group. Around 80% of respondents stated they felt it was important that new foreign books were translated into Icelandic. The majority of respondents, or 73%, considered it important for Icelandic literature to have public funding (this figure was similar to last year).

Women and Families With Children Read Most

Families with three or more children read more than households with no children and also reported using libraries most. Around half of the survey’s respondents reported that they use library services.

Women read more than men, according to the survey’s findings. While women in Iceland read on average 3.1 books per month, men read just 1.9. Men’s reading has increased more between years, however, while women’s reading has stayed largely the same. Around 78% of the survey’s female respondents had read a book in the past 30 days while 65% of male respondents had.

Spending the Same on Books

While the COVID-19 pandemic seems to have encouraged reading among Icelanders, it does not appear to have affected book purchasing much. Around 78% of respondents said they buy a similar number of books now as they did last year, while 16% say they buy fewer and 6% that they buy more.

The survey was commissioned by the Icelandic Literature Centre in collaboration with six other organisations in the literature industry and carried out by Zenter. The sample size was 2,200, of which 1,101 responded.