Do book readers deserve to be stereotyped because of their age, sex and the job they do?

Lately I’ve been less than impressed about how the book industry generally shoehorns readers into stereotype groups, believing that your age, your sex, and your income level will pretty much dictate the kinds of books you read. What utter twaddle!

Okay, I know there are plenty of people out there who will point to research evidence that shows there are patterns between who we are and what we buy. But does this really have to drill down to an assumption that they could virtually select our next book purchase for us?

As an avid book reader I find it amusing – not to mention extremely condescending – that there are experts who believe they can pigeon-hole me into a box from which I’m unlikely ever to emerge to experiment with other books outside my comfort zone.

I’ll keep on confounding their theories – and I’ll bet there are lots of you who feel likewise.

Let’s look at this at its rawest form. If you are a middle-aged housewife they are telling you that your days are spent reading romance novels by the truckload. Generally your tastes are fixed, although when you want to push the boundaries you’re unlikely to stray beyond the more erotic of the genre.

Yeah, if you want to scream about that one, go right ahead! It’s an insult not just to the intelligence of the individual but also to the collective of your gender.

By the way, for the record there’s nothing wrong with being a regular and avid reader of romance. The same is true for those of us who prefer action and adventure; or sci-fi; or vampires; or historic fiction; or any of the other sixty or so general book classifications. In my time I’ve covered most of them – and I know I’m not alone in dipping in and out of specific genres.

So, the reason for this blog is to let the bean-counters know that we readers are a free-spirited bunch. We are not here to be taken for granted. We enjoy diversity and like to be challenged by authors fighting for our support and loyalty.

How else, for example, would you explain the contradiction that my favourite book is Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice while at the same time I can’t wait for the next episode of Jack Reacher (the creation of Lee Child) seriously beating up on the bad guys?

Do you have extreme contradictions in your reading habits?
Have you switched back and forth between period romance and modern day mayhem?Do you have a reading comfort zone or do you like to push against these so-called limitations?

As ever, I’d love to hear your views. Your voice will help move the debate away from where it’s currently stuck in the dark ages. Please use the Leave A Reply box below and share your thoughts on the topic.

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10 Responses to Do book readers deserve to be stereotyped because of their age, sex and the job they do?

  1. Gillian says:

    Hi Joe, I’m a ‘middle aged housewife’ but no romance novels are not my thing. That’s not to say I’ve never read them, I did go through a Mills and Boon phase at one point & I ‘used’ to read Danielle Steele novels but my heart really lies with a good crime thriller, give me a book with an autopsy or three anyday and I’m a happy girl!! That is by far my prefered genre, but since getting my kindle I have found myself experimenting far more and dipping into the odd novel in other genres, far more than I used to with regular books I have to say. I will go looking for crime thrillers but if I see a good book that isn’t one but it takes my fancy or if someone recommends it to me I’m not afraid to give it a shot and most times that I do I really enjoy it, in fact I enjoy a change now and then to keep things fresh, and it has to be said to give my mind a rest from all the serial killers and gore!! Great discussion.

    • joemccoubrey1 says:

      Gilly, thanks for the input. I think we’re now proving that readers can’t be stereotyped and that we love diversity.

  2. joemccoubrey1 says:

    Wow Carole, I couldn’t agree more. You’ve taken the discussion onto another level. Perhaps the book industry should have been listening to readers instead of bean counters for the past number of years!

  3. Carole M. Di Tosti (@mercedeskat45) says:

    What does the traditional book publishing industry know? It has been destroying itself for years…very closed minded. If it would be more flexible…it would be doing much more fabulous business and would be heavily into R and D and have seen Amazon coming and not gotten blind sided and would never have eliminated mid list authors and stuck with the big gun authors like it did. (This goes hand in hand with your reader discussion. Readers are also writers are readers… nearly one in the same.

    Thanks for your discussion.

  4. kevintaggart says:

    Hi Joe,couldn’t agree with you more! I love reading thrillers, biographies,reference,horror and real-life stories. I don’t know the meaning of Stereotiped,can’t even spell it!!!

  5. Penelope says:

    Oh, yes. I confound the so-called experts with my cross-genre love affairs all the time. Although I do have a preferred genre, I would never pigeon hole myself into only reading books that are classified ‘fantasy’. I love Kay Scarpetta novels and their ilk, historical fictions, and steampunk. I adore sci-fi, and sometimes pick-up literary fiction. I frequent the classics – Les Miserables, is a particular favorite to this day – and enjoy off-beat things too.

    My to-read list has everything from an erotica novel written by a friend, to some magical realism by Ngugi wa Thiongo (something I read in college and want to revisit). Its a mixed bag and certainly not “typical”.

    But why limit yourself? There’s so much beautiful work out there to experience!

    • joemccoubrey1 says:

      Penelope – brilliant post! I think your last sentence sums up the debate – there IS so much beautiful work out there and we readers are not afraid to go looking for it.

  6. joemccoubrey1 says:

    Natasha, thanks for the share. I wouldn’t say it’s stereotypically to move between fantasy, crime fiction and the classics. You’re definitely not a gal to be shoehorned into one box!

  7. Natasha Marie Thomas says:

    20 year old, female, studying forensic science at uni. My bookshelf consists of YA fantasy and fantasy, my family has a giant pool of crime fiction which i dip into, and my kindle is filled with all the classics. That’s pretty stereotypical though isn’t it? Science subject= stereotypically a nerd= nerds like fantasy. wannabe CSI= crime fiction. Wannabe writer=the classics

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