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Public Opinion on the Value of Books in the English Language Book Sector

Summary Report

August 23, 201723 August 2017

Public perception of the arts and culture

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Based on five research streams (two online public surveys, two sets of focus groups, and key informant interviews), this report summarizes the “current attitudes of English-speaking Canadians about the cultural and economic value of written work”.

Many English Canadians spend a significant proportion of their leisure time reading: 80% spend about five to eight hours reading each week, “representing about one-quarter of their overall leisure time”. One-half of respondents indicated that they read books in digital formats. Spending on books is about $300 per purchaser per year, or $250 yearly for each English-Canadian adult, including those who did not buy books during the past year.

Respondents believe that reading has many personal benefits, including relaxation, escaping, and becoming better informed. Regarding the social benefits of reading and libraries, respondents recognize “the value they contribute to literacy, social cohesion, innovation and general quality of life in communities”.

While the research found substantial appreciation of books, reading, and libraries, there was lower awareness of and value placed on Canadian books. “Focus group participants confirmed that Canadians select books based on authors, topic and quality, more so than on country of origin, and most are not aware of where the books they read are written or published.” That being said, research participants did seem “sympathetic to the needs of Canadian authors”.

Other important findings of the report regarding public appreciation include:

  • “Six in ten Canadians have used a library in the past 12 months”, and respondents recognize that libraries have social benefits such as “increasing creativity and literacy, as well as overall quality of life to residents, and offering a vibrant meeting space in the community”.
  • “Most Canadians do not recognize illegal downloading as a growing problem.”
  • “The role of publishers in enriching the final product of the book, and the variety of books that are generally available to the public, are not immediately obvious (i.e., top of mind)”.

The report also highlights the situation of books in the education sector. One of the key findings is that “Stagnant and even decreasing budgets for material in [elementary and secondary education] are contributing to declining revenues for book publishers. In [post-secondary education], the price of individual text books was noted to have increased considerably, encouraging students to purchase fewer books overall.”

Based on the research, the authors suggest “preliminary strategic actions”, such as enhancing dialogue about the research findings, developing “a strong Canadian brand symbol”, developing “a public awareness campaign to promote/highlight use of Canadian material in K-12 schools and post-secondary education institutions”, and quantifying “the estimated loss of revenue to Canadian publishers from illegal downloading within education system as well as illegal file sharing among [the] general population”.

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