Men Don't Read?

The Huffington Post has an interesting article about the world of publishing from an insider: … 49491.html

Here is a quote:

What do you think? Are men less likely to read than women or is it just that publishers create fewer books for them, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy?

The author also really hits it right with this comparison:

One of my main complaints against Apple is that its ads target ‘young adults at play’ rather than serious adults doing serious work. But I certainly can’t recall one from Apple that was like the Amazon Kindle ads, which had a woman sneering at the stupidity of men.

–Mike Perry, Inkling Books


While I generally agree with your comments, there appears to be some change. Look at the “iPad in Business” at the bottom of this iPad page: . That said, I think Apple still has work to do before challenging Microsoft’s dominance in the business market. As a minor example, simple keyboard keystrokes like + to delete the previous word do not exist on an iPad.



While Apple may not be much in the business sector, Mike’s quoted statement is about how companies advertise to their markets, and I think it’s spot on. I haven’t seen a lot of Apple advertisements with serious looking people in suits or even scruffy entrepreneurs dashing about setting up their business spaces with iPad or Mac laptops at hand.

Getting back to the main point, about men reading, I can’t say for sure that men are or aren’t a significant segment in various book markets. But one thing I have noticed is the continuing male dominance in book reviews on both sides of said review. I’m sure you’ve seen the charts showing the distribution of female authored books in the establishment book review publications? And yet we have “chic lit” labels and even sections of book stores, which seems to be entirely determined by the gender of the author rather than even that of the main character. Take the young adult phenomenon of The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green. No one is claiming it’s chic lit, or a “girl book” as is common in the YA set, but the MC is a teen girl. Find a book about a teen girl, clearly written by a woman (i.e. an obviously female name), and I guarantee that not only will the cover feature pink, and likely feature a faceless girl with her hip nearly popped out of it’s joint, but reviews, if they even exist, will firmly place it in the “not for male readership” category.

For further insight into this trend, take a look at the “Coverflip” phenomenon, originated by YA author Maureen Johnson, who suggested that people redesign covers as if the author were of the opposite gender. She started it with a cover to one of her own books, with this synopsis: “This is The Key to the Golden Firebird. It’s about three sisters who are dealing with the sudden death of their father. May, the middle sister, is trying to hold her family together and learn how to drive.” I dare you to imagine what the cover would be for Maurice Johnson, then click the link below and scroll to the real cover.

People took the idea and ran, re-designing covers for J.D. Salinger as if he were a woman today, John Franzen as if he were Jane, George R.R. Martin as if he had been born Georgette, and so forth. Some great examples are here:

From that experiment, I’ve come to the opinion that timid marketers, unwilling to take risks, are limiting their readership by the cover designs and other marketing ploys. The next time you’re in a book store, I challenge you to find a pink book with a man’s name on it. I’d love to see even a single counter-example to this phenomenon. It’s as if publishers don’t want men to buy books by women. As for the “fact” that men don’t read? I’d like to see some demographic data on that, maybe from a site like before I put any weight to such words.

Not ‘pink’ books as such, but Nicholas Evans’ hugely successful first novel The Horse Whisperer and those that followed have been favoured by female readers, although plenty of men have read them too. Nicholas Sparks’ very successful romances have been even more directly targeted at women. And don’t forget, there are some male authors who write for women - and some men - under female noms-de-plume (for example, half of Nicci French).

When I worked - not as a publisher - for a company that was part of one of the biggest publishers in the world a decade or more ago, the working market assumption of those who were employed there was that the greater part of the book-buying public in the main English-speaking, so-called Western nations was female. From time to time I saw statistics that as far as I could see confirmed this. That didn’t of course mean that it was assumed that ‘men didn’t read’. It just indicated where it was assumed that the greater part of the market lay. It was a matter of preponderance, and for big publishers interested in shifting millions of books, a matter of emphasis.

I also met mass-market authors, male and female, who aimed straight at a female demographic, more or less because it appeared to be a bigger market than a male demographic. For some it was almost a prime directive and the sensible thing to do, if authorship was going to be their trade and their life-long source of income. But of course, because there isn’t in reality a single fiction market, but instead many many smaller markets each with its own distinctive characteristics, there were plenty of exceptions - remember why the author of Harry Potter didn’t call herself Joanne Rowling…?

I wasn’t intending to say that the works of male authors weren’t marketed to women. What I am attempting to convey is my opinion that those works are treated with greater respect, and the base assumption is that works by men are for everyone, but works by women are for women and girls primarily. Sparks is a prime example of the double-standard, where he insists that his books are or contain “love stories” and are definitively not romances. The literary community takes him more seriously (more articles about his books than similar books by women, greater willingness to attribute literary merit to his stories than other romances), his book covers are chosen to be broadly appealing, as opposed to the more “girly” covers that you will find on books written by women, even if those books are not romance-focused. It’s a double-standard that says books by men are largely for everybody, but books by women are meant to be read mostly by women.

The advent of the e-reader has helped me feel more comfortable reading books whose covers are embarrassing even if the titles aren’t, though judging by the nook and kindle adverts cited above, men don’t like electronic do-dads. Now that is a very odd reversal of attitudes indeed, unless the base assumption is that men will buy the electronics for themselves without prompting, but it’s the women who must be convinced that they’re appropriate for them without painting them pink.

And there’s the self-fulfilling prophecy right there, in a nut-shell. Publishers design campaigns primarily for women (in a significant proportion of their market) for years. Then they do a study and conclude that women read more of what they produce (with the leading assumption that what they acquire is going to be for women), so they focus even more tightly on female readers, designing ad campaigns, book store displays and book covers to appeal to women at the exclusion of male readership. Lo and behold! Men don’t read a lot of those books. What a surprise. :unamused:

It’s a very strange business where an underserved market is not only ignored, but actively squelched. And yet… are men less readerly than women? Is there a real study, done competently, where base assumptions are not given undue weight, and pertinent questions are posed regarding genres, cover designs, marketing campaigns, author’s (apparent) gender, etc…? I haven’t run across one yet.

Here’s an anecdote that just occurred to me, that gives some weight to the idea that the publishing (and movie) industry doesn’t really do good research; The movie adaptation of Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring. Or the advertisements shown on the big screen prior to that movie. I recall vividly that every preview, and indeed every non-movie advertisement shown before the movie started was targeted at men and boys. There was a video game trailer rife with horrific demon-like creatures being battled by an impossibly burly male avatar. Other movie trailers were for action movies, featuring ridiculous stunts and cgi battle scenes. My wife made a comment about how testosterone-laden all of that stuff was, as we scanned the crowd and found an almost equal male to female demographic in the seats.

When we went to see the next movie in theaters, there were a mix of action movies and period costume dramas. The marketers had been completely unprepared for how many female LotR fans there were, and had missed out by advertising to men almost exclusively. I can’t imagine that the publisher of the books had any good demographic data on the buyers of the novels, or that advertising mistake would not have been made for the first movie.

Hey, what’s this thread about?


I see what you did there. :laughing:

Will the moderator please remove this thread, to the RSS feed!!! :imp: It’s causing my human to have terrible self-doubt. Since he became ‘A Book-at-Bedtime’ junkie, in 2003, he’s read hundreds and hundreds of books, but if men don’t read… what does that make him? :confused: :blush:

There could be ship wide repercussions, over this Men Don’t Read twaddle. I suppose it’s all we can expect from you lot!

Disgusted Fluff :imp:

vic-k reads books? Yes, well, we know he’s not a normal man, he’s better than that. He’s a…


But not just authors, look also to reviewers. How many book reviewers are women?

! :open_mouth: 'scyooos me Jock! Not Just WELDER! It’s
[size=150]WELDER EXTRAORDINAIRE[/size] [size=150]& KiWCS WEARING STYLE ICON[/size]

And that, ladies and gentlemen (and publishers), is the kind of man who reads.

Aww… Jock. What a nice thing to say. :blush:

Vic-k (I’m welling up inside).

You’re not alone. I think I’m about to vomit too.


Ahhh Beastie Boy! Y’re jealous :smiley: How sweet

St. Vic-k

I suspect the only reason I didn’t originally say all of that myself is that it, literally, didn’t occur to me. Luckily you corrected my lack of imagination and, being the thoughtful reader that you are, corrected the public record in a manner befitting a man of your reputation. As I’m sure you will attest, I should be honoured.

Perhaps not my intended meaning but it is clear that, given this exchange, I shall at least be regarded in a new and different light by members of polite society and, quite possibly, members of other societies too. I will have the certain knowledge that I will have you to thank as my reputation will never be the same.

I am but mortal and, in displaying my imperfection, prove my humanity. Who other than a deeply flawed human would impinge upon your time and seek an encounter with a welder in this rarefied domain (especially, as you note, in the lead up to Christmas)?

Perhaps only now I begin to understand the challenges facing publishers as they struggle with the concept of men, nay, welders who read.

Welder philosophers/philosophers, as a targeted intellectual socio/economic group, do indeed, present the average publishing houses with a conceptual conundrum, but one proffering incommensurable possibilities… I would imagine.

Take care Jock :wink: