Blurring the Lines: What Makes a Reader a Reader?

Recent surveys say that reading books is not the only criteria for being a reader. Read on to discover how reading as a hobby has turned into a state of mind.

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Being a reader has evolved from a pastime into a state of mind through a unique combination of identities, bolstered by the additive aspects of traveling to bookstores and libraries, attending book clubs, and engaging with bookish communities like BookTok or Bookstagram. According to a survey by The Conversation, of the 61% of Gen Zers and millennials who have read a print book, eBook, or audiobook, only 57% would call themselves actual readers. Yet, 43% of those who didn’t see themselves as readers read more print books each month than the entirety of their generation. Why is this? Well, being a reader involves much more than just reading.

Lines Begin To Blur

To start, millennial and Gen Z readers are more likely to be writers and significant fans of some book, comic, show, movie, or just general members of a fandom. The link between all of these labels is community. People are eager to meet others with similar interests, lives, and philosophies in these niche groups. What was once a simple hobby, became a passion that grew friendships, connections, and families.

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Further, if you consider traditional definitions of reading, fans of comic books, graphic novels, and manga do not count as readers. However, most Gen Zers and millennials prefer graphic novels to text-only books, and 34% would choose an audiobook version instead. Additionally, reading for school or work, which includes primarily nonfiction titles, would not be considered reading due to a lack of intention for leisure or pleasure. But when 83% of Americans overall read for school or self-improvement, who’s to say that that’s not “real” reading?

The Nuances of Reading

Alongside community, one must also take into account gender and wealth when examining the conditions that make a reader a reader. Within the Gen Z and millennial generations, more women than men identify as readers. This could be because men are reluctant to categorize themselves in the same vein as women. On top of that, those who are unemployed are more likely to identify themselves as avid bookworms. As it seems, reading is influenced much more by demographics than by how much a person chooses a book and reads it.

A woman with mid-length brown hair, a dark red sweatshirt, and black denim tote bag stands in front of stacked book shelves.

In this new wave of what it means to be a book lover, the definition of reading must change to encapsulate the entirety of the book reader identity. Audiobooks, graphic novels, comics, and manga count as reading materials, and those who engage with them are readers. To help increase the normalcy of the label, communities like Bookstagram should grow in numbers and become more accessible. By engaging in stories — fictional or real — people enter the world of reading and the many joys that come with it!

All in all, books are magic. They have the power to unite people across the globe and foster love throughout. Be a reader and own it!

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