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Why don’t Americans read foreign books?

Written By: Jason Shafrin - Mar• 19•09

Percent of books published in each country that were translated works:

  • South Korea: 29%
  • Spain: 25%
  • Italy: 22%
  • China: 4%
  • U.S. (adult fiction): 3.5%
  • U.S. (total): 3%

Kushner, Aviya (2009) “McCulture” Wilson Quarterly, Winter 2009, 33(1):22-29.

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One Comment

  1. April says:

    interesting stats. but I’m guessing a lot of what is going on is: countries with large populations have more writers – and, given the diversity available “at home” don’t need the translated books so much. The US of course has all that English, Irish, Scottish, Aussie, Kiwi and Anglo-indian lit too – all foreign writing which we can read sans translation (so they don’t show up in the stats). I note China is low also, and I’m pretty sure Russia is too (mere observation in bookstores there).
    I was unpersuaded by the distinction between reading translated classics (which evidently we do more of) vs translated new stuff. If it’s laziness…(as she implies) why would that constrain us from reading new stuff more than classics (in translation).
    I think we are a bit lazier than Europeans…but I get that more from the titles in The Economist “what the world is reading” tables.

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