A week or so ago I received an email from an organisation called Studying in Switzerland. Their main focus, as their name suggests, is helping students who want to study in Switzerland, but it seems that they also do some research of their own. A recent project was to identify the most popular book genres – in countries where data was available.
Their methodology was to analyse Google search queries on genres from different countries, and the results are intriguing. I haven’t found much discussion of their analysis to know how others view the effectiveness of the methodology. Does it match up with borrowing or book-buying data? Or, is what we read different to what we research?
Study in Switzerland says that:
Books continue to be a significant part of our lives, with reading being a popular pastime for many people. Indeed, a typical person reads 12 to 13 novels each year, and how people choose what to read has long piqued the curiosity of researchers. As a result, book publishing has a huge market size worldwide, with revenue reaching $112.5 billion in 2022.
Anyhow, here is what came up for Australia – they identified that Australians search most for Adventure and Classics! Is this what you would have guessed? If I’d been asked, I would have thought Crime. Indeed, I probably would have said “Crime, hands down”. And, of course, as I questioned, what is searched may be different from what is actually read.
We are not the only country interested in Classics. This genre was also popular in Sweden, Hong Kong, USA, UK, Ireland and New Zealand.
Worldwide, they say, Romance, Classics and Poetry are the most searched for genres but, drilling down, there are some interesting preferences. Asians and Canadians, for example, had Poetry first, while overall Europeans (like the Russians, Poles and Finns) go for Fantasy, although some of them (like the French and Spanish) searched more or Romance! Not surprisingly, Belgians, the Dutch and the Norwegians seemed to prefer Crime and Thrillers.
Study in Switzerland makes some assumptions about the reasons for the various preferences they found. Those assumptions make some sense, but they are not based, I believe, on this research.
For their report, please check out this link.
There is other research to look at. Back in 2017, a survey conducted by the Australia Council and Macquarie University of Australians’ reading habits, found something closer to what I expected, which is that
The most popular fiction genre is crime/mystery/thriller, with 49% of Australians having read a book of that genre in the last 12 months … followed by historical fiction on 36%, contemporary/general fiction on 33%, science fiction/fantasy on 32%, and classics on 31%.
However, they also found that just over half (51%) of Australians were interested in “literary fiction”, which they described as fiction “eligible for prizes like the Man Booker and Miles Franklin”. They also found that it’s generally older readers who are most interested in this fiction. Interestingly, they found that these “older readers also tend to be more interested in work by Australian authors”.
I did report on this survey back in 2017, and posed some questions at the end. Some of these might have been answered by …
A report on bookselling published by ArtsHub in 2019 which confirmed Australians’ interest in “home-grown authors”. They found “a 30% jump in local authors featured in the top 25 fiction titles” over the previous two years. Further, bookseller and Book Club coordinator, Jennifer Stephens at Brisbane’s Avid Reader Bookshop, Brisbane, reported that “we are reading a lot of Australian women writers”. (Music to my ears, of course.)
Overall, this report, which drew on two years of Nielsen BookScan data, concluded:
Australian readers’ priorities and interests are evident: self-help and finance, a taste for home-grown writers, an eye for feminist writing, curiosity about sexuality and gender, a fascination with crime and mystery, and a deep need for First Nations perspectives.
I wonder if things have changed much since then, particularly given the pandemic? Either way, it’s interesting to ponder whether there is a significant difference between what we search for online and what we actually buy, or, whether, Study in Switzerland has identified a big swing in our interests over the pandemic?