New survey shows continued drop in Kiwis reading – Annual NZ Book Council report


442,600 adult New Zealanders didn’t read a book in the past year, according to new research out today.

Books are competing with television and computer screens for our leisure time, and 45-54 year olds had the lowest percentage reading of any age group. The study also found that fewer Kiwi men are reading books.

Book Reading in New Zealand was conducted by Horizon Research Limited for the New Zealand Book Council, and follows a similar study completed in March last year.

This year’s research had a wider scope, asking questions about how New Zealanders use their leisure time, to see how reading fits into our everyday lives. It also explored the different languages we read.

The 2018 study reports that 86% of New Zealand adults had read or started to read at least one book in the past year, down from 88% last year.

Looking closer at this figure shows the percentage of female respondents reading has remained essentially the same, but there was a decline in the percentage of male respondents reading.

It’s not all bad news, however. The report also found that most of us read at least one book each year. As in 2017, the majority of us read for relaxation and enjoyment, and our favourite fiction genres are crime, thriller and adventure.

Kiwis are reading more of our own stories. 57% of readers of all ages reported reading books by New Zealand authors or poets in the past year.

The study also indicated that 30% of New Zealand adults read poetry in the past year, and public libraries are the preferred place to source a range of books.
The Book Council’s vision is to grow a nation of readers. The organisation will use the insights from this research to continue to advocate for reading in Aotearoa through its programmes.

“We take these findings seriously and will use them to inform our programmes and projects,” says Book Council CEO Jo Cribb.

“It’s wonderful that New Zealanders love to read and to see that books remain an important touchstone in our society. But it’s worrying to see how many of us didn’t pick up a book in the past year.

“The increasing demands of society and work mean more than ever New Zealanders need to understand and apply information across a range of sources in order to function effectively at work and everyday life,” says Cribb.

“This research forms the foundation of our knowledge about our reading in New Zealand.

We will continue to work to ensure New Zealanders keep reading, with a particular focus on our boys.”

The Book Council will share the findings with the wider sector, including publishers, booksellers and other organisations, for use in their own work.

2,261 adult New Zealanders responded to the online survey between 2 and 25 May 2018.  The survey also obtained 288 parent and caregiver estimates of reading by under 10 year olds and information directly from 108 respondents aged 10-17 year olds.

The full Book Reading in New Zealand report is available at

About the New Zealand Book Council / Te Kaunihera Pukapuka o Aotearoa

As New Zealand’s only national agency dedicated to reading, we seek to build a national of readers leading to social, cultural and economic wellbeing. We do this through a range of education and advocacy programmes, such as Writers in Schools, which has been running since 1972.  The benefits of reading are well documented. OECD research shows that reading for pleasure is the single most important indicator of a child’s future success.

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