May 26, 2022

Digital Social Reading: Research Into the Reading Habits of Young People

From the University of Basel:

Young people make intensive use of digital networks to read, write and comment on literary texts. But their reading behavior varies considerably depending on whether the title is from the world of popular or classic literature, as revealed by a new study that takes the reading platform Wattpad as an example. This computer-aided analysis under the direction of the University of Basel was published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Time and time again, people complain that young people no longer read enough – with the habit of deeper reading, in particular, becoming lost. But this overlooks the fact that young people not only read printed books, but also use several different forms of media to read and write literature. Many teenagers turn to networks such as Goodreads, BücherTreff and LovelyBooks in order to read literature, discuss it with other readers and even write their own literature. This is termed “social reading.”

The phenomenal scale of “social reading” is clear from the Wattpad platform, on which more than 80 million predominantly young people worldwide exchange some 100,000 stories in more than 50 languages every day. Fanfiction, in which fans write continuations of famous stories such as Harry Potter, is a particularly popular genre.

For the first time, a team of researchers from Switzerland and Italy have researched the use of the digital reading platform Wattpad in greater detail. Their research incorporated computer-aided techniques, such as network analysis and sentiment analysis, in order to detect patterns in reading behavior within the millions of datasets.

Using statistical techniques, the researchers analyzed which books young people around the world read and comment on, and also write themselves on platforms such as Wattpad. The analysis looked at reading preferences, the emotionality and intensity of comments made about books, the networking between young readers and the potential educational impact.

Read the Complete Summary  (via U. of Basel)

Direct to Full Text Research Article (via PLOS): “Wattpad as a Resource For Literary Studies. Quantitative and Qualitative Examples of the Importance of Digital Social Reading and Readers’ Comments in the Margins”

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.