readership


readership
   Despite the buoyancy of the publishing industry and the vast improvement in levels of literacy, the level of readership in Spain is the lowest in Europe, both of books (around 50 percent of population) and of newspapers (in the mid 1990s, 105 copies sold per 1,000 inhabitants, compared with the European average of 232).
   A number of factors contribute to this somewhat contradictory situation. One is the very common practice of reading newspapers freely supplied in the many bars that are a focus for much of the leisure activity outside the home. Another very obvious factor is that the huge improvement in levels of literacy in the 1960s largely coincided with the arrival of television and its rapid growth in popularity, so that the habit of book reading came to occupy proportionately less of people's leisure time.
   Reading is being encouraged by an improvement in the provision of school and public libraries; by state grants and financial aid for such things as cultural magazines, bookshops, and lectures and conferences in schools and universities; and by the promotion of books through trade fairs, radio and television programmes and magazines such as Qué leer (What to Read). The price of books is yet another factor, but one that is being met by the production of cheaper pocket editions that are within reach of a wider range of the population. Nevertheless, it remains true that the average price of a book increased by 25 percent between 1997 and 1998, from 2,000 pesetas to 2,500 pesetas.
   Levels of readership are noticeably increasing among women and especially among the younger generation that has had the benefit of universal education since 1970 (see also education and research). Much of the cheaper kiosk literature sold in a variety of outlets is aimed at this section of the market. Among the older generation there has been a particularly marked increase in the readership of novels, especially those by younger authors, and there is also a sizeable readership for detective fiction, travel literature, humour, and biography and history. Nevertheless, apart from "best-sellers", average print runs are declining, and it is generally agreed that too many titles continue to chase too few readers. Although some 2.5 million people visited the Madrid Book Fair in 1998, 50,000 more than the previous year, book sales at the fair fell over the same period from 475,600 to 444,143, a drop of 6.6 percent.
   EAMONN RODGERS

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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