Spain’s Publishers Report on Their 2023 Market

In News by Porter Anderson1 Comment

With 35.9 percent of Spaniards saying they never or almost never read, Spain’s publishers want to ‘redouble our efforts’ to boost those numbers.

Reading on a mobile phone — something that FGEE’s new report on the 2023 market in Spain says only some 8 percent of Spaniards say they do — in Madrid. August 31, 2023. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Ismael San Jose

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

With reading rates growing five points above those of 2012—and holding stable after the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic era—Spain’s book publishing industry has turned in a strong financial report on 2023, albeit with what is described as “a significant percentage of non-readers.” Many of our readers, of course, will remember that Guest of Honor Spain in the 2022 Frankfurter Buchmesse was quite successful in showing the literate caliber of the Spanish population.

Provided to Publishing Perspectives by the Federación de Gremios de Editores de España (the Federation of Publishers’ Guilds of Spain, FGEE), the new report—once more produced for the federation by Conecta with sponsorship from CEDRO and support from Madrid’s ministry of culture—is led by a series of top-line findings worth enumerating:

  • “After the strong increase during the pandemic, the percentage of readers has consolidated. Since 2012, the percentage of readers in their free time has increased by five percentage points (from 59.1 percent to 64.1 percent).”
  • “In the last year, there’s been a minimal drop of 64.8 percent to 64.1 percent, in the percentage of people who read in their free time,” a minor enough change that the organization doesn’t feel concern is warranted.
  • “Since 2012, the percentage of frequent readers—those who read at least weekly—has grown 4.8 percentage points, to 52 percent.”
  • That “significant percentage of non-readers” mentioned above comes to “35.9 percent of Spaniards who say they have never or almost never read.
  • This Spanish-market “barometer” in its 2023 edition has detected differences in reading rates between the nation’s different ‘autonomous communities,’ between women and men, and between different age groups. However, since 2012, there has been a growth in the rates among readers aged 65 and older by more than 15 percentage points (53.7 percent).” Furthermore, that’s the age group in which there are seen the smallest differences in readership by gender.
  • “Lack of time continues to be the main reason cited for not reading, something asserted by an average four out of 10 respondents.”
  • Thirty-one percent say they prefer to spend their time on other entertainment”─and that’s yet another indication of the levels of competition being presented to the reading industries and communities of so many world markets today.
  • “Reading among minors continues to be the majority,” the report’s narrative says. In 76.3 percent of homes with children under 6 years of age, parents read to their young children.
  • “Eighty-six percent of boys and girls between 6 and 9 years reportedly old read in their free time.”
  • Rates of engagement in digital reading formats shows little change since past years, the survey authors tell us. Since 2018, around 30 percent of the population reading in digital formats has remained all but unchanged.
  • “The percentage of audiobook users. by contrast, has tripled, with 6.9 percent of the population older than 14 listening to them.”
  • Another associated finding, however, shows us that the percentage of those who pay for digital books has decreased slightly compared to 2022 (38.3 percent), but has increased by 6.3 percent over 2012.
  • Piracy—and conscious piracy—is also discerned in this study. Some 64.6 percent of respondents say they download digitally formatted books free of charge, and this is almost 10 percent more than in 2019. The study’s authors clarify: 67.7 percent of digital readers say know when downloading is not legal, hence indicating that conscious piracy is at issue and that these are many times not cases of consumer innocence.
Some Higher-Level Observations

A chart indicating the frequency of reading books during respondents’ free time in the new FGEE study of Spain’s market in 2023. Image: FGEE

Following the “digital acceleration” and the strengthened intensity of the pandemic period, the percentage of Spaniards surveyed who say they read books remains quite stable at some 68 percent.

Daniel Fernández

In an observation on the new findings, Daniel Fernández, the federation’s president, is quoted, saying, “The 2023 ‘Barometer’ shows the consolidation of the significant increase experienced during the pandemic and, especially during confinement, which registered more than five points.

“Since then, the indices have shown a certain stability. From the analysis of this study, one fact continues to draw attention: 35.9 percent of those surveyed claim to never or almost never read.

“This is why we believe that it is necessary to redouble our efforts to reduce these figures and that, once and for all, it’s no longer a constant that one in three Spaniards doesn’t include reading books as one of her or hiss, At the same time, we also increased the percentage of frequent readers.”

Age and Gender Distinctions Among Spain’s Readers

Total numbers of books read by Spaniards, by age, as surveyed in 2023. Image: FGEE

Among data gathered for the 2023 study of Spain’s market, by age, the section with the largest reading population is between 14 and 24 years old (74.0 percent). For their part, the groups from ages 25 to 64, and those 65 and older, register 65.8 percent and 53.7 percent, respectively.

Asked why they don’t read more, most Spaniards respond to the FGEE research that they don’t have time, followed by a preference for other entertainments, followed by lack of interest in books, and finally by health reasons. Image: FGEE

It’s interesting to note that those 65 and older have shown constant growth since 2012, with an increase of 15.5 percentage points.

The percentage of women who dedicate their free time to reading books exceeds that of men in all age groups, highlighting a difference of 17.5 points registered in readers in the group between 25 and 34 years old. This can be a difference as stark as 73.4 percent women and 55.9 percent men doing the nation’s reading.

That difference, however, gets to its lowest level once readers are older than 65. At that point, the gender difference comes close to disappearing, with reading being done by 56.2 percent women and 50.3 percent men , a gap of only 5.9 percent.

Generally speaking, 68.6 percent of women read books in their free time compared to 59.3 percent of men. If we compare it with 2012, the percentage of women who read books in their free time increases by 5.3 percentage points, while men by 4.5 points.

By age, the section with the largest reading population is between 14 and 24 years old (74. percent). For their part, the groups from 25 to 64 years old, and 65 and older, register 65.8 percent and 53.7 percent, respectively. It should be noted that the section of the population aged 65 and over has shown constant growth since 2012, with an increase of 15.5 percentage points.

Another interesting set of distinctions that Daniel Fernández likes to point to is the distinctions between reading among the regions of Spain called its “autonomous communities.”

“Since we started the ‘Reading Barometer'” survey and analysis, he says, “we have seen that there are differences between autonomous communities regarding reading habits. Those that have large urban concentrations have a higher reading rate compared to those that are more rural and also have an older population. We must work to reduce these differences.”

There are, of course parallels familiar to many in other markets here: More conservative voters and less well informed citizens tend to live in the rural areas of many nations where they, too, have fewer readers concentrated. Among the autonomous communities of Spain, only six are above the 64.1-percent Spanish average for reading:

  • Madrid (73.5 percent)
  • Catalonia (68.2 percent)
  • Navarra (68.1 percent)
  • Basque Country (67.8 percent)
  • La Rioja (66.6 percent)
  • Aragón (64.3 percent)

One bright spot in this regard, however: Compared to 2012 data, all of Spain’s autonomous communities show increases in reading.

Ebooks and Audiobooks

In recent years, digital formats among Spanish readers have stabilized at around 30 percent of the survey sample. Reading on a smartphone, so popular in some markets, stands at only 8.4 percent in Spain. Image: FGEE

Between 2018 and 2023, the percentage of the population that reads in a digital format, either ebook or audiobook, has remained around 30 percent, and last year was 29.7 percent.

Reading on e-readers comes to 11.8 percent, on the tablet to 9.7 percent, and on a computer to 9.7 percent, making these the most ubiquitous devices used for e-reading.

Many in other markets will note that smartphones are not among those Top Three. While reading on a mobile phone has stabilized at 8 percent, the FGEE reports, coming to 8.4 percent during 2023, getting to that point has taken several years.

A chart showing where study respondents in Spain say they normally buy their books. Image: FGEE

The study’s researchers found that 53.2 percent of surveyed Spaniards said they bought a book (not a textbook) in 2023.

The traditional bookstore remains the most ubiquitous channel for purchasing books, followed by digital retail outlets (the channel most used by people between 25 and 34 years old) and bookstore chains.

Shopping for books in Barcelona during the festival of Sant Jordi in April, 2023. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Manuel Milan

More from Publishing Perspectives on the Spanish market is here, and more on industry statistics is here. More from us on Europe is here, and more on Spanish-language literature and interests 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.


  1. I live in Spain during part of the year and I know many who download pirated books consciously. There are not many bookstores in provincial towns, and few second-hand bookstores.

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