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One in Five Americans Have Listened to an Audiobook, One in Four Have Read an eBook

After a two-year pause, the Pew Research Center  has at long last conducted a new poll on media use in the US.

A total of 2,002 adults were polled in the first week in January, and the report found:

About three-quarters (74%) of Americans have read a book in the past 12 months in any format, a figure that has remained largely unchanged since 2012, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in January. Print books remain the most popular format for reading, with 67% of Americans having read a print book in the past year.

And while shares of print and e-book readers are similar to those from a survey conducted in 2016, there has been a modest but statistically significant increase in the share of Americans who read audiobooks, from 14% to 18%.

Overall, Americans read an average (mean) of 12 books per year, while the typical (median) American has read four books in the past 12 months. Each of these figures is largely unchanged since 2011, when the Center first began conducting the surveys of Americans’ book reading habits.

This is of course a survey on reading habits, not buying habits, a detail worth remembering when these stats are misused when someone proclaims (once again) that ebooks are dead.


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Randy Lea March 9, 2018 um 1:39 pm

The median is 4 and the average is 12. That happens if there are some people that read a boatload of books. My non-scientific experience is that people that read a ton of books prefer ebooks, people that read a few books per year prefer print.

This survey gives people that read 1 print book per year the same weight as a person that read 80 ebooks per year. I don’t see much value in this. Its probably more accurate though, I have zero idea how many ebooks I read, it just has no meaning.

I wonder if the big publishers paid for this survey to help their efforts to slow the rise of ebooks?

A link to the report:

One interesting point is that people with higher education and higher income read more books and ebooks. My guess is that they are less sensitive to cost, where people with lower education levels and lower income read less, and are more sensitive to cost. It looks to me like the strategy of choking off ebooks sales by charging excessive prices from the top publishers impacts the reading habits of lower income people, which makes sense.

Will Entrekin March 9, 2018 um 3:57 pm

Am I thinking right that if 74% reported they had read a book in any format, that means 26% reported NOT having read a book in any format, meaning that there as a many people reporting who read an ebook as there are who didn’t read a book at all?

Because if so that’s really sad.

DaveMich March 9, 2018 um 4:50 pm

Diane B March 10, 2018 um 1:06 am

I also would like to know which format voracious readers choose. One of the many reasons that I prefer ebooks is that they don’t take up space. I can keep all my books without the need to find a place to keep them.
Ebooks were really taking off until BPH wrested control from Amazon and were able to charge more. I still not going to go back to print, but I won’t pay more for an than $9.99 ebook version that I only have a license for and can’t lend it to someone or give it away. I would say that nowadays I don’t buy as many books as I used to before Agency pricing. Most of the best sellers I read are downloaded from my library. I may have to wait a long time–but then I always waited for the paper back to come out anyway.

Diane B March 10, 2018 um 1:10 am

I should have proof read before posting. Sorry for the mistakes.

Robert Nagle March 11, 2018 um 3:37 pm

I’d be curious about spending habits. How does spending on ebooks compare to spending habits on printed books? Anyone know?

I’d be more interested in a demographic over 25 so that factors out the spending of students (textbooks, more print than ebooks, etc).

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