Yes, men and women even read differently

A study found that although men and women complete books at nearly identical rates, men are more likely to abandon books sooner.

Ann Hermes/Staff/File
Randy and Irene Fish peruse books at Left Bank Books in the Central West End neighborhood of St. Louis. Librarian Roz Warren, who's spent more than a decade checking out romance novels to women and historical war accounts to men, says she was finally forced to conclude that there really are 'men's books' and 'women's books.'

Men and women eat differently, exercise differently, and work differently. Now, a new study suggests they read differently, too.

When it comes to books, it turns out men are more decisive than women.

“Men decide much faster than women do if they like a book or not," according to an analysis of reading habits by reader analytics startup Jellybooks.

Working with major publishers in the UK, the startup tested hundreds of digital titles on hundreds of volunteers to tease out differences in reading habits. It embedded technology in ebooks that tracked when readers picked up, completed, or abandoned a title. Notably, Jellybooks' volunteers were largely female readers, with a 20/80 male/female split.

The study found that although men and women complete books at nearly identical rates, men are more likely to abandon books sooner.

“The initial decline during which most readers are lost is much sharper and earlier for men than it is for women, and this is a behavior that we observe for the majority of books,” writes Jellybooks founder Andrew Rhomberg for Digital Book World. “So put another way, men give up on a book much sooner than women do."

It's not entirely clear why this is, but Jellybooks suggests women are more likely to stick with a book even if they don't like it.

"Given the identical completion rates, we take this to mean that men either have more foresight in this regard or that 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.”

Regardless of the reason behind the difference, the study offers a critical lesson for authors and publishers.

"Authors need to capture the attention of readers quickly," says Mr. Rhomberg. "What our demographic reading analysis shows is that, when it comes to men, an author has only 20-50 pages to capture their attention. No room for rambling introductions. The author needs to get to the point quickly, build suspense or otherwise capture the male reader, or he is gone, gone, gone."

Of course, this isn't the only gender-related difference when it comes to reading.

While Jellybooks found that “both sexes have an equal probability of finishing a book," there is one major exception: books that deal with feelings or emotions, which men are less likely to read in the first place, and far more likely to give up on than are women.

Previous studies have uncovered other differences. A study by Goodreads found that the vast majority of readers prefer books by authors of their own sex.

Of the 50 books published in 2014 that were most read by men, 45 were by men and only 5 were by women. In other words, 90 percent of books read by male readers are by male authors, the The Christian Science Monitor reported in 2014, adding "Before women cry foul, consider this: Of the 50 books published in 2014 that were most read by women, 45 were by women and only 5 were by men."

And based on anecdotal experience, librarian Roz Warren, who's spent more than a decade checking out romance novels to women and historical war accounts to men, was forced to conclude there really are "men's books" and "women's books."

If the studies by Jellybooks and Goodreads hold true, it's likely those historical war accounts are written by men – and perhaps, abandoned much sooner.

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