Over the past few decades, commuting times have risen dramatically in most major cities. As inner-city property prices have mounted, many workers are moving further to city peripheries for lower costs – but those searching for cheaper rents are encountering longer commutes. The number of Brits spending two hours a day commuting, for example, had increased by 72% in a decade, according to a 2015 study.
Indeed, the most recent studies available find the typical Londoner spends an average of six hours and 10 minutes each week commuting, while the average New Yorker clocks in slightly more, at six hours and 18 minutes.
Meanwhile, millennials are reading more than their older counterparts. According to a Pew study, 72% of 18- to 29-year-old readers in the US have read a print book in the previous year, more than any other age group. At the same time, a third of book buyers under 44 want to spend less time on digital devices, says the Codex Group, which specialises in book audience research. Print book sales have risen in each of the three last years, following a period of stagnation.
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Publishers are well aware of both these trends, and are actively chasing the 'commuter read'. Penguin has started publishing small-sized books “designed to pick up, pocket, and go”, says Philippa Cowburn, a spokeswoman. In a similar vein, Oxford University Press has released a selection of 35,000-word titles, formatted in specialised block paragraphs which aim to make it easier to find your place again after forced breaks in concentration.
If we consider that the average adult reads about 300 words a minute, in the six hours you might commute each week, you could read some 108,000 words, and still have enough time left to check in and update your Twitter. That’s about the length of Wuthering Heights, Gulliver's Travels or Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Of course, that’s assuming you’re riding on public transport and have the elbow room to open a book. Those behind the wheel have no such option – unless they’re listening to audiobooks, that is.
Even short commutes can be used successfully to read more. So BBC Capital asked: what are the best ways to read, and the best things to read, for your particular commute?