Record pounds 1.6bn is spent on books

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The Independent Online
PEOPLE are reading more, despite advances in computer technology and more sophisticated toys, a report from the Policy Studies Institute shows, writes David Lister.

The latest edition of the independent research group's Cultural Trends shows that net consumer spending on books in 1992 reached a record pounds 1.595bn, up 6 per cent over the previous year. It also shows that prices for non-fiction titles continue to rise, from an average pounds 18.19 in 1992 to pounds 19.01 last year. The greatest price rise was in school textbooks, which rose from an average pounds 8.62 to pounds 13.06 (48 per cent) between 1991 and 1993. The average price of fiction titles fell for the first time in a number of years, from pounds 8.87 to pounds 8.69, between 1992 and 1993. The statistics, based on all the relevant surveys, show 48 per cent of the population read regularly, with 46 per cent claiming to read every day, up 15 per cent from 1989. The average number of hours spent reading per week has remained at 7.4.

The breakdown into ethnic origin shows that 49 per cent of Europeans, 41 per cent of Afro-Caribbeans and 28 per cent of Asians read books regularly, while 4 per cent of Europeans, 8 per cent of Afro-Caribbeans and 4 per cent of Asians read poetry regularly. For both books and poetry, the Afro-Caribbean group was least likely never to read. However the report's authors warn that the ethnic minority samples had above average representation of people whose education continued beyond their 19th birthdays and the results 'probably exaggerate the communities' interest in reading'.

The report also shows that 175,000 people were employed in the cultural sector last year, down from 191,000 in 1989. The sector accounts for 8.4 per 1,000 of all employment in Great Britain and the sector employs males and females in almost equal numbers.

Cultural Trends no 20: Employment in the Cultural Sector; Books, Libraries and Reading; pounds 15.50; tel: 0800-262260.