While reading is the subject of a considerable number of surveys in different European countries, it is very difficult to compare the individual results and put them into perspective. Not only do these surveys tend to focus on sometimes diverse topics within the field of reading, starting with varying concepts of which text types and formats to be included. More importantly, they also make use of different methodological approaches. Therefore, one of the objectives of Aldus Up, the network of European bookfairs, is to establish a common methodology which can make the results of future surveys in European countries more comparable, thus to provide a comprehensive overview of the development of reading in Europe.
Based on the results of an explorative survey undertaken in 2021 in 20 European countries (see previous article here), general requirements for the methodological approach and different variables were defined and put together as a EuRopean Item Core Set for Reading Surveys (ERICS) by the Working Group on Reading of Aldus Up.
The main challenge is as obvious as it is pivotal: how can the design of a survey already established in one country provide ‘new’ sets of figures and, at the same time, maintain direct comparability to previous results, necessary to keep track of the national development? Our suggested answer is this: by implementing a very basic framework, which – on the one hand – will enable the comparison of key figures on reading habits between countries, but which can – on the other hand – be supplemented by further individual variables, depending on the focus of national surveys.
While the apparent simplicity of the core set proposed today may indeed easily veil the actual complexity of the considerations preceding its definition, it is crucial to point out that this definition is only the cornerstone of the real challenge up ahead: establishing ERICS as a common standard, acknowledged and implemented by a significant number of institutions conducting national surveys in different countries.
To this end, we have been in contact with some of the players in different countries as to the execution of pilots for a while now, and are confident to soon receive valuable feedback on the feasibility and, possibly, even the very first “ERICS-compliant” survey to turn our cornerstone into a true milestone towards comprehensive data on reading habits in Europe.