Research shows that people still prefer to read real books - Oxfam

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More than two-thirds of people still opt for a paper or hard back book, despite being able to read stories on tablets, phones, Kindles and listen to audio books, according to a survey of 2,000 adults commissioned by Oxfam.

Nearly half of those (46 per cent) like to be able to physically turn the pages while 42 per cent prefer the feel of it in their hands.

A quarter also admitted they love the smell of a book, 32 per cent feel they get more immersed in the story of a physical book and 16 per cent are reminded of libraries.

After bookshelves became a popular backdrop for video calls during the lockdowns, 35 per cent also admitted to preferring physical books as it meant they could add it to a bookcase.

The research found that despite the digital revolution, just 16 per cent prefer to read an E-book while less than six per cent turn to audio stories.

It revealed that the average adult currently owns 49 paper or hardback books and reads for around three hours a week.

The poll also showed books are the item people are most likely to buy second-hand, while they are Oxfam’s biggest growing pre-loved category.

More than seven in 10 (71 per cent) buy second hand because it’s cheaper, while 52 per cent like that it’s more environmentally friendly.

Others like reading pre-loved books because of the smell (18 per cent), texture (18 per cent) and knowing that you might find a letter or note inside (15 per cent).

And 45 per cent like to think about where second-hand books have come from.

Ian Falkingham, Books Lead for Oxfam, said: “Buying second-hand books can be beneficial for so many reasons; it’s far cheaper, better for the environment and holds a personal connection to whoever owned the item before. Second-hand books carry so many memories with them and the personal connection of the story being read in your hand is truly an experience to enjoy.

“You can find an Oxfam shop on almost every high street, and thousands of books, from adventure stories to history books, collectables to crime fiction, on our Oxfam Online Shop - there’s always something new to discover.”

Nearly half (45 per cent) of those surveyed admitted to reading more books than usual since the start of lockdown, while 84 per cent of those heading off on a holiday this summer will take a book with them.

After the boom in reading, three quarters said they are considering donating books once they have read them, with another 72 per cent often buying a used book themselves.

The study also found nearly six in 10 (58 per cent) readers claim a good book helps them to relax, with 46 per cent using it to escape from the real world.

But more than three in 10 simply read books to learn something new while 39 per cent do so to feel happy.

The research, carried out by OnePoll, found 49 per cent of adults often buy second-hand items with books, car, clothes, CDs, and DVDs at the top of the list.

Just over half of Brits agree buying second-hand items is just as good as buying new with 59 per cent saying it is more appealing now than it used to be.

Notes to editors

  • Oxfam is Europe’s largest second-hand bookseller
  • Oxfam has more than 500 high street shops with a books department, including 120 specialist book shops
  • The Oxfam Online Shop features thousands of books, from adventure stories to history books, collectables to crime fiction
  • To shop for books on the online shop, go to


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