Preferences in leisure time book reading. A study on the social differentiation in book reading for the Netherlands
SourcePoetics, 26, 4, (1999), pp. 203-234
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ RSCR SOC
SubjectInequality, cohesion and modernization; Ongelijkheid, cohesie en modernisering
In this study, we addressed the question of social differentiation in book reading preferences. Two theoretical insights are examined that explain why readers from the higher social classes prefer complex and prestigious books more than readers from the lower social strata. At first, membership in the higher social classes is seen as an indication for a person's cultural competence, and second, it is expected that people from the society's elite are more eager to demonstrate their high status background through reading. In our analyses, using a Dutch nationwide survey of book readers, we first examined the usability of a ranking procedure in which book genres and literary books were classified on the dimensions of complexity and literary prestige. Our results indicated that a reliable classification could be established through the method of expert evaluation. We used this classification of genres and literary books to obtain a valid measurement of a respondent's book reading preferences. Second, we investigated to what extent aspects of readers could explain these preferences. Our findings showed that especially a higher educational level and the stimulation of literary reading in secondary school determined reading preferences for complex books. Furthermore, our analyses indicated that social motives of readers were of importance. Readers who emphasized the general value of literature, and readers with a high status best friend liked to read relatively complex books (even after factors of individual competence were taken into account). Our analyses gave rise to the more general conclusion that social differences in book reading were due to cultural competence factors, but also, and more surprisingly, to social status characteristics of readers.
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