Study Reveals How Men and Women Make Up Their Mind About Books

Hayim Oshky discusses the results of a new study on reader habits. It showed how men and women make up their minds on whether they like a book.

Completing books

Newspaper The Guardian reports that UK start-up Jellybooks, a reader analytics company, has released its latest research. This study was designed to determine reader habits i.e. when people pick up, read or abandon a publication. Over the last few months, Jellybooks trialled hundreds of titles with hundreds of readers in tests groups, which had a 20% male, 80% female ratio. Jellybooks’ research suggested that the completion rate of a book is not gender specific.

According to Jellybooks founder Andrew Rhomberg, the “notable exception” to this rule are tomes that “deal with feelings.” Explaining this, he said that “[here] the completion rate for men is half the value or less than that for women… Not only do fewer men start reading these books, but those who do start reading them are more likely to give up on them than women are, irrespective of the quality of the content or the narrative.”

Making up their minds

The completion rate may not be gender-specific, but the way men and women judge books is. Jellybooks found that “men decide much faster than women do if they like a book or not.” In the study, the example of a tome penned by a Canadian author was used. It was tested on 400 research participants; the book was finished by 28% of women, but only 27% of men.

Shedding light on the significance of this finding, Rhomberg said: “The initial decline during which most readers are lost is much sharper and earlier for men than it is for women, and this is a behaviour that we observe for the majority of books… Men give up on a book much sooner than women do. Given the identical completion rates, we take this to mean that men either have more foresight in this regard or that women continue reading even if they already know that the book is not to their liking.”

Holding onto readers

The Jellybook study also illustrated how authors hold onto male readers. Elaborating, the company’s founder comments that writers “only [have] 20 to 50 pages to capture their attention” so they have “no room for rambling introductions.” Continuing, Rhomberg said:  “The author needs to get to the point quickly, build suspense or otherwise capture the male reader, or he is gone, gone, gone.”

However, Rhomberg suggested that it is unlikely that publishers will utilise the contents of Jellybooks’ research to alter their content. Explaining more, he said: “We don’t expect this to happen… We can sometimes point at a particular chapter which seems to be more difficult … but in fiction, we can’t see enough detail [about why], and this is such a loaded topic … You don’t save a book by rewriting one scene, or changing a character. We don’t see that as being the idea.”

Value of market research  

Publishers may not utilise the results of Jellybooks’ research to alter their books’ content. However, it would not be completely unreasonable to suggest that publishers may use these findings to streamline their marketing strategies, especially online. Let’s look at what the study found concerning reader age. Jellybooks found that readers under 35 and over 45 are more likely to finish a book than respondents who fall into this age demographic.

Explaining this, Rhomberg said people aged 35 – 45 could be the “most time-pressed demographic,” with “little time for reading.” Theoretically, this could prove useful to publishers who target their books to this age range, allowing them to present their publications effectively through online marketing campaigns. Generally, publishers would be well advised to extensively research their target reader, so they can create marketing campaigns that appeal to their chosen demographic.

Thanks for reading… Hayim Oshky.


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