Reading in change

Reading in change – who reads, why, what and how? How do readers reflect on the meanings and purposes of recreational reading?

University of Helsinki
PI, professor Pirjo Hiidenmaa
Post-doctoral researcher Ilona Lindh
Doctoral researcher Roosa Suomalainen
Collaborative member, adjunct professor Maaria Linko

Reading in change is a research project that examines reading habits and cultures in the context of leisure. We are interested in meanings connected with reading books, and the ways in which books are important to their readers. In our research, we are further asking how a reader’s identity is formed and readjusted in different life events and situations.

In addition, we investigate changes in reading habits e.g. due to digitalisation. New formats have accompanied printed books and the possibilities of sharing reading experiences continuously expand in the forms of new applications and communities on social media. Various events around books and literature create platforms for encounters between readers, and also unite audiences with authors.

Our research data consist of answers to an online survey conducted in Finland in August and September 2021 (955 respondents). The data contains open-ended as well as quantitative responses, and comprises especially the views of committed, active readers, aged over 15 years. Our analyses build on qualitative methodological frameworks such as content analysis and discourse studies. We aim for interdisciplinary approaches by drawing on previous research and theories on reading in the fields of literary studies, the sociology of literature, cultural studies and linguistics.

The studies in our project bring up new information regarding recreational reading cultures from the readers’ point of view. Our research takes part in the discussion about the future of reading books by investigating the vitality and variety of current reading practices and communities as well as being interested in upcoming changes brought about by audio books, for instance, or initialized by readers and readerships.

The project is conducted under a two-year period from April 2021 to the end of March 2023 and it is funded by Finnish Cultural Foundation.