The Evolution of the Romance Novel (infographic)

February 5, 2014 romance 12

This infographic, created to accompany the PBS POV documentary Guilty Pleasures (2012), looks at the history of romance novels from the 1940s to the present.  It’s interesting, but it leaves out a few things — historical romance, particularly Regency-era romance, stayed popular well into the 2000s, though their appeal may have waned a little in the last few years.  The growth in small-town series over the last decade goes unremarked.   And the infographic certainly doesn’t mention the explosion of YA and NA romance (or romance in YA) over the last five or ten years.  (To be fair, the infographic is 2 years old, and NA is a very recent category.)  Including those books aimed at younger reade3rs might also impact the average age of romance readers, lowering it from 49 (print) and 42 (ebooks). 

What I find most interesting is the explosion in romance ebooks.  Is it just easier to buy them in that format, or is part of their popularity the fact that no-one knows (and can sneer at) what you’re reading?  What do you think?  And how does the rest of the infographic stack up against your own reading experience, if you’re a romance reader?

Click to view larger graphic
The Evolution of the Romance Novel from POV.

12 Responses to “The Evolution of the Romance Novel (infographic)”

  1. Bea

    Yeah, the mean age looks skewed to me. The stats on FSoG are pretty interesting. Under the digital imprints, I’ve heard of all of them except Rouge. Do they still exist?

    • Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

      I don’t know if Rouge still exists, but it appears from the infographic to be a division of Random House UK, so we might not see their books here in the US (or the title may be published under a US imprint.)

  2. Pamela D

    I need to watch this documentary. It sounds fascinating. In college, I had planned to do my honors thesis on romance novel readers but then life happened, and I couldn’t do it. A book that you might find interesting is Reading the Romance by Janice Radway.

  3. Jan @ Notes from a Readerholic

    The infographic is interesting, I agree it leaves a few things out–popularity of historical romance, for example. I also think paranormal books were popular long before Twilight.

    I’m not reading very much romance these days though I still like a book with a relationship of some sort.

    • Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

      Mmm, I hadn’t thought of that, but it’s true; paranormals were out there before Twilight.

      I don’t read as much straight romance as I used to, but my reading preferences seem to go in waves. I do enjoy a touch of romance in other genres, as well.

  4. Stephanie Shepherd

    Very interesting! I’ll out myself as preferring to read romance in ebook format because it’s less embarrassing. While I theoretically feel like that one should never feel “guilty” about what they are reading – all reading is good if it gives you pleasure – I realistically am afraid of being judged. Maybe it’s because I entered my adult book reading life in the 80’s and 90’s when the covers were sort of appalling. Whatever the reason, I know it’s silly. But I will also likely continue to prefer ebooks.
    Also, I don’t pay too much conscious attention to book trends but your additions to the infographic line up with my fuzzy impressions.

    • Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

      I’ll admit that I’m sometimes embarrassed by romance covers, and have been known to use a book cover when I’m reading a print copy in public. I’ve also had a man smile and make a condescending remark about me reading romance when I was in fact reading a murder mystery on my e-reader, so I’m not sure that ereaders actually provide much cover.

    • Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

      Me neither. Nor do I intend to. I enjoy a good romance, but from all descriptions I’ve read, FSoG is more erotica than romance, and leans in a direction I am not comfortable with for all kinds of reasons. No offense intended to those who enjoyed the books; they’re just not my cup of tea.

  5. Wendy Darling

    This is fascinating–thanks for posting it! I had never seen this graphic before. I’m reading a lot of romance right now (and we’re launching a spinoff romance blog soon), so it’s especially interesting figures. So much has changed over the last couple of years that I’d love to see this chart updated, though.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden