Steve Fenton

When people say “I don’t have time to read…”

If you read more than twelve books a year, you will undoubtedly have had someone remark on it. “I don’t know where you find the time,” they say. “I don’t have time to read.” Of course, as the stoics keep telling us; our time is incredibly limited and all we can do is make good choices about how we use it. To illustrate the point, let’s look at the dreaded “average person”. I’ve never met this person, statistically almost everyone is not this average person. However, they are a useful way of finding out some middle-numbers we can use for an illustration.

The average person reads twelve books a year. The average person takes 168 minutes to read 100 pages of an average book. An average novella is around 50,000 pages and an average novel is around 90,000 pages. There are much longer examples out there, because some people were paid based on word counts… always find the abridged version of a book by someone paid-per-word. Back to the average person, they also spend 144 minutes per day on social media.

That means, any average person who switches half their social time to reading time will discover they can:

  • Finish a novella in four days (or two if they pause social for two days)
  • Finish a novel in six days (or three if they skip social for a week)

That means our average person can read thirty to sixty books a year just by exchanging doom-scrolling for reading. The average person who does this ceases to be average very quickly and becomes more than average. Interesting. Knowledgeable. Empathetic. They might even write a social post worth reading after ingesting this many books.

Time to Read

An infographic showing that giving up half your social time will gift you 30 books a year.


12 books per year is an average that is shifted higher by the most avid readers. This is true even though it is estimated that thirty percent of people don’t read at all. These numbers come from the Pew Research Centre, based in part on research funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This number may be slightly US-centric due to the population surveyed.

Average time on social media of 144 minutes per day comes from data collected by Statista.

Written by Steve Fenton on