Who are the readers? – National Reading Survey

Are you an engaged reader, a general reader, or do you not read at all? In this article exploring the key findings of the Australia Reads’ inaugural National Reading Survey, we explore our national reading habits.


The National Reading Survey by Australia Reads collected data from more than 3,000 Australians across two groups of respondents:

  • ‘General readers’ from multiple panel sources, collectively representative of Australian state and gender populations over 16 years of age;
  • ‘Engaged readers’ sourced from e-newsletter subscribers of Australian publishing houses and social media followers of Australia Reads – meaning they engage with book related news.

From these responses, researchers delivered the following findings about our national reading habits.


Most Australians read a book a year

According to the National Reading Survey, 75% of the general Australian population indicate they read or listen to at least one book (in any format) once a year. 


A third of Australians read frequently

The survey also shows almost a third of the general Australian adult population (28% general readers) are frequent readers; that’s defined as reading on average one to two books a month.


Engaged readers are dedicated readers

Most (37%) engaged readers are dedicated book readers – heading towards at least one book every fortnight. Typically, these readers have a big ‘To be read’ pile and read 2-3 books at once.


More Australians not reading books at all

Conversely the results show 25% of the general Australian adult population have NOT read or listened to a single book (in any format) in a year. This is a marked increase on the findings of the Australia Council x Macquarie University Reading the Reader survey, which showed 8% of the population had not read a book in a year, and may require deeper investigation and follow-up research to identify and monitor any trends.

It’s also worth considering this information about non-readers in tandem with data around literacy skills – the Australian Bureau of Statistics considers 44% of Australian adults to have low literacy levels.



This data suggests several areas areas of focus to further engage readers, each of which may require different tactics, promotional campaigns, or community engagement programs:

  • A significant portion of general readers read one book a year – focus could be placed on ways to convert this type of reader into frequent or engaged readers.
  • Converting non-readers into readers may be more challenging than increasing time spent reading by people who already enjoy books – but if the rates of non-readers decline as the data suggests, then this would be an important goal.

Explore the key findings and full report of the National Reading Survey (2021).