May 23, 2012 -- While women voraciously devour fiction books like the racy "Fifty Shades of Grey" a major publisher is betting that more men will at long last take up reading via an eBook series that will launch June 5 -- "Fiction for Men."
The collection -- a collaboration between Esquire magazine and Open Road Integrated Media -- is meant to be funny and action-driven.
"Each story is about something that men can relate to," Esquire's editor-in-chief David Granger wrote in an email to ABCNews.com. "One of the stories -- about a drug deal gone bad -- is surprising and exciting and violent and taps into one of the parts of life that many men dread: f***ing up in an irreparable way."
The theme of another is basketball and "the inevitability of aging;" and the third is about a boy deciding to "take on some of the trappings of manhood," according to Granger.
The first volume will highlight short stories by authors Aaron Gwyn, Luis Alberto Urrea and Jess Walter and Esquire will offer up new fiction every month.
First there was fratire [""I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell""] books about hangovers and sexual conquests, then BoyChik["Slouching Towards Kalamazoo" by Peter De Vries], tales about males bewildered by emotional entanglements who eventually redeem themselves.
Granger said he has no idea if this new testosterone-laden "dude lit" will tap into the new lucrative eBook market.
"This is an experiment," he said. "I see how rabidly men, as well as women, consume the works of writers like Michael Connelly and Lee Child and James Lee Burke and I know there is a market for well-crafted, plot-driven stories."
According to several national surveys, only one-third of all American readers are males. And fiction is not their genre of choice.
A National Endowment of the Arts survey in 2009 revealed that Americans are beginning to read more literature after a steep decline since the advent of the Internet. And a 2007 poll conducted by the Associated Press and the market research firm Ipsos found that among avid readers, the typical woman read nine books a year, compared with only five for men.
National Public Radio reported that men account for only 20 percent of the fiction market, according to surveys in the U.S., Canada and Britain. Books clubs in this country comprise almost exclusively women.
"A larger percentage of women buy exclusively fiction," according to Erin Matthews, owner of Books With a Past, an independent bookstore in Glenwood, Md.
"What is interesting to me is that more highly educated men seem to be the most likely to buy non-fiction, which seems like it would be Esquire's audience," said. "Where, oddly, it appears anecdotally that the opposite is true for women -- less educated women seem to buy non-fiction and more-educated women buy fiction."
Matthews also argues that male fiction is hardly a "new idea and sort of redundant."
"The majority of mainstream fiction offers male characters and male viewpoints," said Matthews.
Jezebel writer Erin Gloria Ryan agrees, citing the male-dominated literary canon in a column she wrote this week.
"What a wonderful time it is to be a man," she sarcastically writes, noting that only three of the last 12 recipients of the Man Booker Prize have been women and only 12 have been awarded the Nobel Prize in literature since 1909.
"Esquire's attempting to bring men back to fiction reading -- which I totally support," Ryan told ABCNews.com. "But they're doing it in a way that's a little eye roll-inducing -- It's a little dismaying that we're still entrenched in a way of thinking that routinely encourages women to confront and understand the experiences of men, but men can't be bothered to read about the experiences of women, and it's especially dismaying to see a leading men's magazine endorsing that antiquated way of thinking."
In fact, modern female writers have done quite well on The New York Times Bestsellers list. "Fifty Shades of Grey" author E.L. James takes the top three spots for combined print and eBook fiction, along with romance novelist Nora Robert.
Empathetic Women Read More Fiction
Psychologists have found that women are more empathetic and emotional than men, which perhaps makes fiction more appealing. Others say that at least in the earlier grades of school, girls can sit longer than boys.
Ronald May, a psychologist at the Psychology Center in Madison, Wis., doubts men's reading habits will change, even though their capacity for empathy has become more evolved, particularly in raising their children.
"Esquire may be on to something, and I am sure they did their market research," said May. "But from clinical experience with a well-educated population, men don't read about relationships, they read about politics or social change or something in their field or sports."
"Men get stuff more from books with self-help strategies like "Change Your Life in Seven Days" or "How to Win Back the Love of Your Life," or the movies," he said. "They are much more oriented toward movies that may have a kind of story about honor or integrity or being there for family than the mushy chick flicks that are values-driven."
But William Pollack, associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and director of the Centers for Boys and Men, said men are emotional as women and will read these books -- if they are packaged the right way.
"You call cologne perfume and men will buy it," said Pollack of the Esquire's new eBooks. "Using the technology part as a boy toy to bring men into fiction. It's a male friendly manner... For men, this is perfect -- they get the whole structure of downloading something."
And, he asked, who says males don't read fiction? "I can't tell you how many male grads from MIT at 30 and 40 are into Harry Potter."