During lockdown, Italians rediscover books: strong increase in readership

During measures to contain coronavirus infection, Italians rediscovered reading: 62 percent of the population read.

During the long weeks of the measures to contain the Covid-19 coronavirus infection, Italians rediscovered books, according to Istat’s 2020 annual report, presented yesterday at the institute’s headquarters in Rome. The impact of the so-called lockdown on reading was described as “very significant” by Istat: in fact, 62.6 percent of Italians (64.5 percent men, 60.8 percent women) devoted themselves to reading, reading books, magazines, newspapers. This is a mighty increase from 29.6 percent in the last survey on leisure time use.

Istat found that 39.7 percent of Italians read books, newspapers or other online or in digital media, while 34.6 percent preferred the traditional form of paper media. Still according to the statistics institute, on a day of the so-called Phase 1, reading was nevertheless one of the activities to which Italians devoted most during their leisure time, whether online (46.7 percent) or on paper (39.8 percent).

“The importance of these results,” Istat comments, “is remarkable if we consider that, in the last decade, parallel to the digital revolution, there has been a growing disaffection towards reading. In the case of books, for example, in less than 10 years, from 2010 (the peak year for the share of readers) to 2019, the share of readers fell from 45.2 percent to 38.4 percent (out of the total population aged 18 and older), with a decline that particularly affected the 35-64 age group, as well as children and adolescents.”

However, the gender gap that has seen women more likely to read since the late 1980s remains unchanged: in fact, in 2019, women readers were 42.5 percent (compared to 34 percent of men). "What occurred during the lockdown,“ says Istat, ”thus appears of particular interest. Book reading on an average day involved 26.9 percent of the population aged 18 and older, with a higher share of women (30.8 percent versus 22.7 percent for men) and young people up to age 34 (32 percent). Reading e-books and/or books online affected 7 percent of the population especially young people, two-thirds of them women."

Growth also for daily newspapers: four out of ten people read at least one daily newspaper (both in digital and print media), a practice that is more widespread among men than women, and especially in the center-north (43 percent versus 36.7 percent in the South). The newspaper was mostly read digitally (32.3% versus 1 in 10 people who read it in print).

During lockdown, Italians rediscover books: strong increase in readership
During lockdown, Italians rediscover books: strong increase in readership

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