France: SNE’s New 2020 Confinement Reading Report

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The latest survey results from France’s publishers cites respondents saying they’ve read more during the market’s two lockdowns, with younger readers taking the lead.

In Lyon near the time of the new French study’s survey in mid-December. Image – iStockphoto: Emmanuelle Firman

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Reading To Disconnect From News: 33 Percent
On Friday (January 8), we reported on the new “Book Report 2020” statistics released by the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels—Germany’s publishers and booksellers association. The gist of the news there is that the second round of coronavirus-mitigation shutdowns has “weighed heavily on the book trade’s year-end results” in Germany.

Today (January 11), we have news from Paris where the Syndicat national de l’édition (SNE), has issued a new round of data, effectively picking up where it left off near the end of the year.

In mid-December, as Publishing Perspectives readers will recall, the organization released a special edition of its “barometer” report series, promising another in January. That report was built on input gathered between October 13 and 20. This one surveyed its respondents between December 10 and 11, shortly before the earlier report was being released.

Produced in cooperation with the ODOXA Institute, the study has looked at the two periods of confinement in France and those periods’ effects on reading behavior. It opens with several key points observed in the French market in “normal times,” meaning when not in the grip of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

French Reading Trends in Non-Pandemic Times
  • The French read 8.4 books per year
  • Women in France read 10 books per year
  • Those 65 and older read the most books, 11 titles per year on average
  • Those aged 25 to 34 read the fewest titles, 5.3 books per year
  • Detective novels are considered favorites by 45 percent of respondents, with contemporary novels chosen by 32 percent, fantasy read by 28 percent
  • Practical books—such as do-it-yourself, travel, and cooking—are favored by 26 percent of respondents, with 20 percent preferring comics and manga
Trends During France’s Confinements

Traffic checks during the first sequence of confinements, here on Paris’ ring road. Image – iStockphoto: COM & O

  • A third of the respondents in the study said they have started to read more during the pandemic and its restrictions
  • That upturn in reading was observed especially during the first confinement, while economic activity was very slow
  • It was the youngest demographic (24 and younger) doing the most reading during the French market’s two periods of confinement, by 42 percent
  • The French have followed their typical patterns of genre preferences, but it’s noted that during the pandemic era, “poetry seems to have been a refuge with twice as many references to it—at 7 percent—over that seen in non-pandemic times
  • Respondents said they mostly read to fight boredom (43 percent) but also to disconnect from the news (33 percent) and to spend less time on social networks (31 percent)
  • Respondents 25 to 34 years old said they saw reading as a way to “avoid surfing the Internet” (31 percent)

Vincent Montagne

In a prepared comment, Vincent Montagne, president of the Syndicat, is quoted, saying, “The results of this survey confirm, with supporting figures and percentages, that faced with uncertainties—and an anxiety-provoking trend toward overconsumption on the Internet and social networks—the book is acclaimed by the public.”

Montagne adds that the new research has shown that younger consumers are especially keen in their survey responses, seeing reading “as a real antidote” and indicating that French readers “remain intimately attached to their bookstores.”

When asked about the potential for a third period of confinement—the French health chief Olivier Veran said on December 29 that this is not expected—85 percent of the respondents said that it should not require bookstore closures. This is something, our readers will recall, that became a flashpoint of controversy in France in November.

The SNE’s new media messaging points out that seniors—who are of course among the most vulnerable in the pandemic—seem to be among the most insistent that bookstores remain open as essential businesses under mitigation constraints, 91 percent of them saying this in the study.

The survey was conducted with a sample of 990 people representative of the French population, interviewed online on December 10 and 11.

The Coronavirus in France

At this writing, the 1:22 a.m. ET (1822 GMT) update of the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center sees 2,825063 cases in France’s population of 67 million, with 67,734 fatalities.

These figures place France at sixth in the world for caseload behind the United States, India, Brazil, and the United Kingdom. In terms of the death toll, France is at No. 7.

Sudip Kar-Gupta for Reuters Paris reports that in the last 24 hours, Paris has imposed a stricter evening curfew in Marseille after authorities reported discovering one of the more recently recognized variants there. A staff report from France 24 confirms that reporting, saying that the variant in question was first found in England in 2020.

“The local health authority in the Hautes-Alpes region, home to many ski resorts which attract British visitors,” the report reads, “said the variant had also been discovered there.”

A shot in Paris on March 16 during the earlier pandemic spread-mitigation efforts encompassed in the SNE’s studies. Image – iStockphoto: Onickz Artworks


More from Publishing Perspectives on the French market is here, more from us on bookselling is here, more on industry statistics is here, and more on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's 2019 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.

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