Survey: Canadians Say They’re Reading More Diverse Books

In News by Porter Anderson

While Canadians surveyed on diverse books said they’re reading more widely, they’re not sure they want authors writing outside their own demographics.

In Montreal’s Jean Talon Market, October 2020. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Marc Bruxelle

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

Diverse Opinions on Diversity
In a report released last month, BookNet Canada has reported that readers surveyed seem to understand the importance of diversity in their reading and to be making moves they felt reflected more consumption in in that direction.

In some definitional questioning, survey respondents said that “diversity” in their reading should indicate books about perspectives, opinions, and/or stories that are different from their own.

Some 62 percent of respondents said that books should represent a variety of experiences, and 48 percent said they had or “sometimes had” read more diverse books in the past year. It’s worth knowing, however, that in 2020, they’d said they’d read more diversely by a percentage point, at 63 percent.

Readers who had read more diverse books in the last year, said they:

  • Read more than the general reader
  • Were more likely to have bought from places that share their values
  • Were most likely to agree that libraries and retailers should have—and that publishers should publish—more books by a greater variety of authors
  • Were more likely to say they wanted to see more perspectives, opinions, or stories that are different from their own in books

Maybe some of the most interesting material along these lines in the Canadian report is just what respondents said meant “diversity” in terms of their interest. The interests run from colonization and “unstable or precarious housing” to child-free interests and unconventional appearances.

In other words, the meanings of “diversity” are very diverse:

Image: BookNet Canada

In summing up some of the points of the diversity elements of the survey, the BookNet team reports, “The top experiences or perspectives that all readers want to read more about or see more often in their books are mental health challenges (46 percent), multi-cultural or immigrant experiences (46 percent), working-class experiences (45 percent), and stories across ages or multi-generation (44 percent).”

Readers interested in more diversity are those who access their content both in purchases and in library borrows and elsewhere.

Based on the pattern of answers to some prompts, readers who read more diverse material seem to warm up to it and demand more.

Image: BookNet Canada

And as to who should be doing the writing, some of the respondents could trigger a lively debate, many consumers saying that at least sometimes authors should “stick to what they know.

Image: BookNet Canada

The report is available free of charge in the run-up to Guest of Honor Canada at Frankfurter Buchmesse (October 20 to 24). More information on the survey and its parameters is here.

More from Publishing Perspectives on BookNet Canada and its research is here. More from us on the Canadian market is here, more on Frankfurter Buchmesse is here, and more on issues in diversity and inclusivity is here.

More from us 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 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 was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.