Ask A Reader: Do readers care if an author is Canadian?

We’ve reviewed the questions submitted during our Ask A Reader campaign and realized that some of the answers could be found in recent research we’ve already conducted. Huzzah! So we’ve taken to the blog to share some of that data, which you’ll find in a series of posts over the next few weeks. Our last post: What influences parents when buying books for kids?

Q: Do readers care if an author is Canadian?

In our 2012 consumer study, Canadians Reading Canadians, we measured Canucks’ opinions on reading homegrown talent and compared our findings to a 2002 Association of Canadian Publishers benchmark report to see how those feelings had changed in the intervening decade.

Across the board, the research shows a declining awareness of Canadian content, but not a declining interest. In 2012, 36% of respondents were unsure if they had read a book by a Canadian author in the past year, compared to 19% in 2002. Meanwhile, most respondents also indicated that reading Canadian-authored books is important to them.

Q: Can readers name a Canadian author?

When asked to name a Canadian author, most respondents were able to name at least one. In fact, there was notable improvement over the decade among those who could name a Canadian author (53% in 2002 vs. 69% in 2012). This improvement could be due in part to the increased popularity of Margaret Atwood, who was named by 21% of respondents in 2012, up from 11% in 2002. It is interesting to note that respondents born outside of Canada showed a slightly higher aptitude for identifying Canadian authors than those born in Canada.

Question: Can you tell me the name of a Canadian author? [Open-Ended] (N= 1,005)

Q: Who’s reading Canadian content?

Our 2012 research shows that respondents with a post-secondary education or higher are more likely to have read a book by a Canadian author than those with less education. The east and west coasts have the highest percentages of respondents who had read a Canadian-authored book in the past year, while the inverse is true for Central Canada (i.e., Quebec and Ontario). All this being said, the majority of respondents in each region were uncertain as to whether or not they were reading Canadian authors.

Question: Have you read a book by a Canadian author in the last year? Crosstab question: Province/State of Residence? (N= 1,005, N=1,005)

Q: What do Canadian readers think of Canadian books?

Most responses to the question “What do you think when you read the words ‘Canadian books’?” were positive. Many 2012 respondents identified popular Canadian symbols and book franchises like Anne of Green Gables. Subjects like “hockey” and “geography” were often associated with Canadian books, with a few references to having read Canadian content for school. The most popular responses indicate that Canadians believe that “Canadian books” are written about Canadian subjects, with Canadian settings, and often by Canadian authors.

Question: What do you think of when you read the words “Canadian books”? (J2012 06) (N=1,005)

We also asked respondents how impressed they are by books written by Canadian authors. We found that 70% of book consumers were “moderately,” “somewhat,” or “very” impressed with Canadian authors. It seems that positive impressions of Canadian books decreased slightly between 2002 and 2012, though this may be attributable to the increase in respondents who were unsure if they were reading Canadian books. Rather than an issue of writing quality, it seems as though this is a matter of awareness of Canadian authors.

Question: Thinking generally about your impressions of books written by Canadian authors, how impressed would you say you are? (N= 1,005, ACP 2002 N=990)

Q: Do Canadian readers value Canadian books?

Many Canadian readers do seem to value Canadian books. In 2012, 76% of respondents indicated that they were somewhat or very interested in reading Canadian-authored books, while 75% said they were somewhat or very interested in Canadian subject matter.

Publishers appear to be increasingly aware of the importance of promoting and marketing Canadian content. Over the last five years, the number of EANs in BiblioShare using the Canadian contributor marker has increased by 275%. When this indicator is used in databases like BiblioShare, the content gets flagged for specific use by websites like 49th Shelf and provides guidance for Canadian bestseller lists. It also makes the data available to retailers, libraries, and bloggers to further aid in the discovery of Canadian content.

Canadian readers have indicated that they want to read Canadian books. The fact that close to half of our respondents don’t know if they’ve read a Canadian author in the past year indicates that work may be needed in other areas, specifically discoverability, to make it easier for readers to find Canadian content.