Men Finish Quicker than Women (When it Comes to Putting Down Books)

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Do women on Venus read differently than men on Mars? Researchers from Jellybooks — a somewhat Orwellian start-up that specializes in reader analytics and “data-smart publishing” — decided to find out by analyzing how a reader’s gender influences how quickly they stop reading a book.

Jellybooks found, as The Guardian reports, that men and women are equally likely to finish reading a book once they start it. Both groups charted 27–28% completion rates across a variety of genres, including non-fiction, literary fiction, science fiction, crime, and fantasy. One genre, however, offers an exception: books that “deal with feelings.” Think romance novels, or novels that thematically focus on grief or love. “Not only do fewer men start reading these books,” Jellybooks founder Andrew Rhomberg explains in his Digital Book World article, “but those who do start reading them are more likely to give up on them than women are.” This trend holds true regardless of the gender of the book’s author.

Although men and women are equally likely to finish a book once they begin reading it, the study found that when readers do decide to throw in the towel, men do so much earlier than women. In a claim that sounds like a euphemism, Rhomberg explains that men “decide much faster than women do if they like a book or not.” Men, he ventures, “either have more foresight in this regard or…women continue reading even if they already know that the book is not to their liking. We suspect the latter, but cannot prove it at this point.”

It’s worth noting that more women than men signed up for the ebook trials. The prevalence of women volunteers, as Rhomberg notes, is to be expected, since women “account for more book purchases and books read than men do.”

Overall, these findings suggest that authors have less time — only 20–50 pages by Rhomberg’s count — to “hook” male readers. Authors who hope to appeal to men might consider ditching long-winded introductions or slow opening flashbacks. While Rhomberg told The Guardian that he doesn’t believe authors should change the way they write based on his study’s results, he does conclude that an author “needs to get to the point quickly, build suspense or otherwise capture the male reader, or he is gone, gone, gone.”

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