How the world’s best readers read

The Olympics are upon us. Millions of sports fans have flocked to Brazil to take in the events in person, while scores more are enjoying the spectacle from home. But perhaps an even greater number are indulging in another popular summer pastime—reading! It may never become an Olympic event, but the folks at Kobo have got into the spirit by applying some Olympic-style performance analysis to the world’s very “best” readers.

Kobo has been a global leader in eReading for nearly a decade. Aside from developing some of the world’s best eReaders and producing what for millions is the definitive eReading experience, Kobo is also known for regularly offering up fascinating insights on the industry and the minds of its most passionate readers. Case in point: The Kobo Big Data Whitepaper, released in spring 2016. It doesn’t disappoint.

The makeup of the world’s best readers

First, Kobo provides some figures on its “best” readers:

  • They’re not eBook-monogamous (on average, they buy 16 print books and 60 eBooks per year).
  • They’re loyal – 99% read multiple books from same author; 52% of their libraries is devoted to series (vs. 42% of the average reader’s library).
  • They’re not young. 77 % of the “best” readers are 45-years-and-up.
  • They’re predominantly female (75% female).

Learning from the best

In today’s busy world, most people find it hard to make the time to read. So, just how do the best readers do it? Well, they make it a priority. In fact, where the average reader only chooses reading over other forms of entertainment 20% of the time, the best readers choose reading 70% of the time. They also typically do it 2 to 5 times per day and for longer stretches of 30-minutes or more at a time.

As to where they read, you can probably guess that the most common place to read is at home (93%) and in bed (85%). Otherwise, passionate readers read just about anywhere, such as during lunch break (50%), on the commute (32%), on long train or plane journeys (73%) or even while the kids are doing homework. Where the TV might be on for normal readers, it’s a book on-hand for the best readers.

So, just what are passionate readers reading?

Romance, romance and more romance. Ok, that may not tell the full story, but romance is far and away the bestselling category among top readers, accounting for more than double the number of units as the next bestselling category, general fiction. Coming in at third most popular is mystery (as in the “mystery category”, not that the result is a mystery.)

The discovery discrepancy

Among other interesting findings in the Whitepaper was how readers discover new books. Personal recommendations by friends (68%) and browsing in a physical bookstore (67%) were the leading avenues for 18-24 year-olds. In fact, this was the case for all demographics, but the influence of these two avenues decreased proportionally with age. On the other hand, the opinions of critics mattered significantly more for the 65-and-up crowd, with 40% citing it as an important way to discover new books versus only 22% of 18-24 year-olds citing it as a factor.


According to Kobo, the world’s best readers share a passion for reading in any format, but are obviously seeing great benefits in eReading in terms of convenience and even ergonomics. The power of stories is alive and well, and Kobo, reassuringly, will be around to help authors and publishers keep telling them.


If you enjoyed this introduction to Kobo’s Big Data Whitepaper: How the Best Readers in the World Read, please take a look at it in full here.

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