Characteristics, preferences and motivation of avid non-fiction readers

Publication Date03 April 2018
Date03 April 2018
AuthorMargaret Kristin Merga,Saiyidi Mat Roni
SubjectLibrary & information science,Collection building & management
Characteristics, preferences and motivation of
avid non-ction readers
Margaret Kristin Merga
School of Education, Murdoch University, Murdoch, Australia, and
Saiyidi Mat Roni
School of Business and Law, Edith Cowan University, Joondalup, Australia
Purpose This paper aims to provide insights into the characteristics of avid non-ction book readers, exploring their typic al demographic
characteristics in relation to reading volume and frequency. It also investigates their comparative library usage in relation to avid ction readers, as
well as their motivation to read, and barriers to reading. Findings from the subset of self-identied avid non-ction reade rs from the 2015
International Study of Avid Book Readers are interrogated to provide insights into this under-researched group.
Design/methodology/approach The authors have used a single-stage mixed-methods approach, using data from both qualitati ve and
quantitative items in an international survey.
Findings The quantitative data analysis of this study suggests that avid non-ction book readers were more likely to be men and older than avid
ction readers, and that they also tended to read less frequently, though avid non-ction readers tended to read a greate r volume of books. Avid
ction readers reported greater library usage, and thus unsurprisingly were found to have a greater borrowing tendency than non-ction rea ders.
Our qualitative ndings around reading motivation identied a range of recurrent themes. The authors also found three key barrie rs to reading:
time, book access and concentration.
Originality/value The ndings of this study provide unique insights into the characteristics, preferences and motivation of avid non-ction
readers, with the relationship between pleasure and the reading of non-ction of particular interest.
Keywords Mixed-methods, Non-ction, Borrower characteristics, Borrower motivation, Borrower preferences
Paper type Research paper
Amongst the wide range of functions performed by a
contemporary publiclibrary, provision of quality books to meet
the needs of avid readers remains an important role. Public
libraries have long been acknowledged as repositories of
knowledge, supplying free accessto quality non-ction reading
materials. Kelly(2015) argued that public libraries:
[...]are at once repositories for the accumulation and sanctication of types
of knowledge that drive civic progress, while offering a value-free,
encyclopedic approach to knowledge that does not explicitly privilege
science, humanism or any particular epistemological creed (p. 2).
Within the non-ction genre, this knowledge can be imparted
through a diverse array of subgenres to meet a wide range of
reader interests, as the world of non-ction is huge(Wyatt,
2007, p. 1).
In the age of the internet, information can be easily sourced
in a readily digestible format, which could have an impact on
non-ction reading and subsequently the non-ction
readership in libraries. However, this impact resists immediate
generalisation; the limited extant research on non-ction
collection data in contemporary libraries suggests that both
non-ction collection size and demand are highly variable
across different public libraries, and that variation in
collection sizes and patterns of usage suggests that factors
affecting non-ction collections are more complex than access
to alternative sources on the internet(New South Wales
Public Library Services, 2016). Non-ction may retain and
even increase its popularity and cultural relevance; Cords
(2006) suggested that realism is currently dominating all
forms of media(p. 18), and though this contention is
somewhat dated now, it is nonethelessstill relevant, with reality
television, documentaries and lms based on historical events
retaining signicantpopularity in popular culture.
The relative social acceptability of ction and non-ction
reading has long been reective of sociocultural norms. Non-
ction used to occupy a privileged position in a public library
collection, with Baker (1994, p. 65) describing the early days
of the public library movement,where:
[...] some librarians with elitist tendencies suggested, often vehemently,
that factual works attempting as they do to discuss the reality, actuality, or
truth of a situation were somehow better than ctitious works the
imaginative, fanciful, or even capriciouscreations of an author.
As such, reading of ction is considered as a waste of time, a
potentially harmful instillationof false views of reality, posing a
potential risk for impressionable readers, who were
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on
Emerald Insight at:
Collection and Curation
37/2 (2018) 5059
© Emerald Publishing Limited [ISSN 2514-9326]
[DOI 10.1108/CC-05-2017-0019]
Received 15 May 2017
Revised 30 July 2017
Accepted 28 August 2017

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