Canadians are avid readers who bought or borrowed more than 2.7 million books last week, according to figures released by a campaign uniting librarians, educators, literacy advocates, publishers and booksellers.
The National Reading Campaign revealed its first ever "national book count" figure on Wednesday.
The count offers a snapshot of a typical week of reading by Canadians — including physical books and digital downloads, purchased or on loan from the library — and serves as a kickoff to the group's second reading summit this week in Montreal.
"We're looking at how we can build a reading strategy in Canada for this century," group spokesperson Jamie Broadhurst, also vice-president of marketing at Raincoast Books, told CBC News.
To arrive at the figure — which Broadhurst believes is the first time reading has been tabulated in this manner — campaign staffers combined book sales and library circulation from Jan. 10-16.
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They gathered figures from 22 Canadian public library systems (reflecting more than 11.2 million Canadians), 80 per cent of the English-language book retail market and 40 per cent of the French-language retail market.
Eventually, the group intends to expand its count to reflect more public and institutional libraries across the country, more of the French-language market and perhaps even inspire a similar tabulation in the U.S. for cross-border comparisons.
Love of reading in danger?
"There's a transformative power in big numbers," Broadhurst said. The first national book count of 2.7 million demonstrates that reading continues to be popular, "but will it remain popular?"
He noted that recent surveys have indicated young people are reporting a declining enjoyment in reading.
The group's overall goal, then, is to inspire all Canadians to read, think more about the act and promote it, just as other pastimes, including watching movies and heading out to sporting events, are promoted.
The first game of Hockey Night in Canada last Saturday drew close to two million viewers, Broadhurst said. Though comparing sports viewership to book consumption figures is not an exact "apples to apples" comparison, he said, Canadians should ask themselves: "Do we do as much to promote reading to our young people as we do to promote hockey?"
"If Canadians can appreciate that on just an average week in Canada, more than 2.7 million books are sold and circulated in libraries, what then does that do for Canadians' perception of reading?"
The National Reading Campaign's second national book summit takes place Thursday and Friday in Montreal.