You’re all up to date with the latest series, but the book on your nightstand is gathering dust — a situation more and more people are finding themselves in. A new study decries the drop in book readership, as more and more time is spent online and watching TV shows.

The old saying that every second, a German buys a book, no longer stands. People are spending more time online and less time reading, researchers report.

The new study analyzed reading trends in Germany, finding that the people who buy books are becoming fewer and fewer. Last year, just 44% of Germans over the age of 10 (29.6 million people) bought a book. The number dropped by nearly 18% between 2013 and 2017, and between people aged 20-50, the drop was even more severe (24% to 37%).

Among the main reasons for this drop is competition. Reading books is an enjoyable pastime, but people are spending their time online and, notably, watching series of TV shows — it’s no coincidence that companies like Netflix or Amazon are enjoying such tremendous success with their shows.

Watching things is often regarded as an “easier” way to spend your time, requiring less effort and often featuring less intricacy than books. There’s also social pressure — if your friends are watching the latest series, you also want to catch up and be up to date.

“There’s growing social pressure to constantly react and be tuned in so you don’t get left behind,” Boersenverein head Alexander Skipis said in a statement accompanying the study, titled “Book buyers, where are you going?”.

However, this presents the book industry with an opportunity: life is already hectic, and the web and TV shows only make it even more so. Reading a book should be presented as a relaxing activity, a sort of time-out from daily life.

“People are yearning for a time-out,” said Skipis, stressing that all age groups reported have a “very positive” attitude towards books.

However, we shouldn’t interpret this as an overall decrease in book reading. Perhaps surprisingly, while fewer people are buying books, those who are are buying are purchasing more than ever. The average reader bought 12 books last year, up from 11 in 2013. The total amount spent jumped from around 117 euros ($138) to 137 euros.

So while the non-readers group is getting larger, the readers group is getting more passionate. A similar evolution was experienced by e-books: customer numbers went down, but overall purchases per person went up.

People are also finding more creative and time-efficient ways to incorporate reading into their lives. Some people are using personalized apps for book recommendations, others are taking books in rather unexpected places, like the gym.

An interesting takeaway, and perhaps an important lesson (although this wasn’t the focus of the study), is that the gap between the two groups (readers and non-readers) is becoming larger and larger. So many times we talk about two different worlds, two societies hidden in one — here too, the same trend is noticeable.

Enjoyed this article? Join 40,000+ subscribers to the ZME Science newsletter. Subscribe now!

Like us on Facebook