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

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 across the UK 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.

Joan Randle, Oxfam Aberystwyth Books and Music Shop Manager, said: “The pandemic has just cemented Wales’ enduring love of physical books: people have been finding a lot of comfort in reading and we’ve all seen everyone’s carefully crafted bookshelves in the background of Zoom calls.

“Here in Aberystwyth, our shop is a real treasure trove – you can find a huge range of non-fiction books as well as everything from first edition novels to rare collectables to an extensive selection of Welsh language books.

“Oxfam shops are more than just book shops: they’re community hubs and we’re hugely grateful for our legion of loyal supporters who donate, shop and volunteer here.

“Of course, the best part about buying second hand books from Oxfam is the fact that you’re doing your bit to fight poverty and make the world a fairer place for everyone. Long may Wales’ love of physical books continue!”

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.

Derrick Noakes, Oxfam’s Haverfordwest Shop Manager, said: “It’s not remotely surprising to hear that the death of physical books has been greatly exaggerated; we have countless customers who love to come in and peruse our shelves. For many people, the pandemic has led to a real revival in reading; there’s nothing like the comfort and escapism of a good book.

“Of course, buying books second hand from Oxfam isn’t just the cheaper, more environmentally friendly choice, but it also helps us raise money to provide communities all over the world facing the threat of Covid with lifesaving clean water and soap. And the best part is; once you’ve read it, you can always donate the book back to us for someone else to enjoy!”

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.



For more information and interviews, please contact: Rebecca Lozza, Oxfam Media and Communications Adviser, Scotland and Wales:  / 07917738450 


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.
  • Oxfam has 18 shops in total in Wales, which can be found in: Abergavenny, Aberystwyth, Bangor, Cardiff, Cardigan, Carmarthen, Chepstow, Haverford West, Hay on Wye, Llandrindod Wells, Mold, Monmouth, Penarth, Port Talbot, Porthmadog and Swansea.
  • 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