The reasons that Americans read more by Suf Alkhaldi

 Reading Books
Reading Books (this image is by adamr at

There is no secret that successful business people cultivate the habit of reading. Reading nourishes and grows the mind. Although social media technologies are racing to steal our attention, somehow the publishing industry (reading books) has thrived so far. The global market value of the publishing industry is 148 billion. The market value of the largest publishing companies in the world is (1):

  • 28 billion for Thomson Reuters Corporation
  • 18 billion for Reed Elsevier PLC
  • 15 billion for Pearson
  • 7 billion for Gannet
  • 3 billion John Wiley & Sons

The United States ranks number one in the world for the number of books published. The publishing industry flourishes in the US while other countries play catch up. Why do some cultures read more than others? In other words: why does the US have the highest number of readers — if we  assume that there is a correlation between the number of books published and the number of readers (and it might be causation)? The amount of books published in 2010 (2) in the US was 328,000 compared to 189,295 books in China. This means that there is one book per 944 people in the US, and 1 book per 7,554 people in China, indicating people in the US read 8 times as much as in China (this analysis ignores the reading age).

Do the American people read more than the Chinese? Not so fast. As much as we want to take the number of published  books as an indicator of people reading more, this might not be accurate. Some nations don’t read as much because they have a high context-culture. Anthropologist Edward T. Hall in his 1976 “Book Beyond Culture” presented the idea that that the US has a low-context culture compared to China’s higher context culture. In other words, China’s culture is more homogeneous society, and, therefore, there is less need to articulate ideas due to common cultural values.

Consequently, the words become very few and important in the language because a small number of words can communicate complex messages very effectively – this translates to fewer writing and reading materials which leads to fewer published books. The US culture contains a heterogeneous population with more diversity (a low-context culture). Communication among people results in more explicit expression, and the value of a single word decreases with the need to have more words to capture ideas. This translates to a higher number of reading materials, creating a greater number of published books. In the US more books to communicate are produced leading to more knowledge consumed by people.

Harry S. Truman said “Not every reader is a leader, but every leader must be a reader.”

Reading is a powerful habit that many Americans currently enjoy. Some business leaders like Fred Smith (the founder of FedEx) reads around three hours a day. Most of his creative thinking comes from his reading materials. Smith’s ability to create new business services came from his constant thinking of improving his company. The idea of creating FedEx appeared in a written term paper he submitted to his professor in a business class. Smith was serious in creating something nobody had seen before. The logistics and the difficulties in building the FedEx business model allowed Smith to harvest his reading habit to find solutions for this company.  Although Smith did not excel in school, as he mentioned in one of his interviews, he read with a voracious appetite.
Reading increases the power of concentration and listening allowing our brains to be in a constant state of flux gaining more knowledge and comprehension.  If you develop the habit of reading,, you will never feel alone because books can be great companions. Books have the magical power of giving us warmth, company, and excitement.

Benefits of reading

When you read, you increase your language and speech skills, allowing your mind to understand complex ideas in a simple way and in return you transfer the knowledge to people around you. Parents promote a fluid communication with their children. As you read extensively, your curiosity and thoughts stimulate your mind to make connections. Reading not only increases creativity, it also increases the process of discovery. Your ability to achieve and produce results might double or even triple. Not to mention that reading allows us to visit different cultures and understand them without the physical effort of traveling.

This blog is published every week on Saturday before 10:00 pm. US Eastern time. Thank you for reading my blog. I would love to hear from you.

1-How big is the publishing industry – Wolfram|Alpha.” [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 28-Feb-2014].

2- G. Whitney, “The UNESCO book production statistics,” B. Res. Q., vol. 5, no. 4, pp. 12–29, Dec. 1989.

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