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Pew: Fewer Americans Are Reading Books

56206868_9ea35e3694_bWhether bought or borrowed, print or digital, the fact remains that fewer Americans are picking up books than in recent years.

The Pew Research Center has a new report out today on American’s reading habits. Based on a survey conducted in March and April, Pew announced today that 72% of Americans had read a book (in any format) in the past year, down from 76% in 2014 and 79% in 2011.

A total of 1,907 Americans were polled for this report, which said that while number of readers has dipped, the average number of books read was still high. Half the survey group had read four or more books in the past year, and an average of 12 books were read for each person in the group.

Women were more likely to have read a book than men (77% vs 67%), and they tended to read more books, average 14 books per year to the male respondents' nine.

pew read book americans 2015Both the mean and median book-reading figures have fluctuated over the years, and so has the number of people reading print books, audiobooks or ebooks.

While ebooks are still almost as popular as ever, there was a slight dip in the number of readers. Only 27% of respondents had read an ebook in the past year, down from 28%.

There was a similar dip in audiobook users, which peaked at 14% last year before dipping to 12% in 2015.

But it’s not all bad news.  The report also revealed a generational pattern to book reading:

Young adults – those ages 18 to 29 – are more likely than their elders to have read a book in the past 12 months. Fully 80% of young adults read a book, compared with 71% of those ages 30 to 49, 68% of those 50 to 64 and 69% of those 65 and older.

The young were also more likely than their elders to have read an ebook(34%). According to the survey, senior citizens were the least like to have read an ebook (15%).

Pew Research Center

image by e-magic

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fahirsch October 19, 2015 um 8:31 pm

Frankly I don’t believe that 72% read a book per year. Many must have said so because they are ashamed to admit it.
Also to reduce reading to "books" is somewhat misleading. For example, I’m 70 years old. Started reading when I learn to read (6 years old in school) and I read books voraciously. And did so until in my country Internet went public (October 1996). Big decline in reading books, but spent even more time "reading" websites.
Since I started reading ebooks (4 years ago) I have picked up reading more books, averaging about a book a week

books October 21, 2015 um 10:26 am

why read a book when you could watch the movie?

Sam October 21, 2015 um 5:38 pm

I also want to know what people mean by "book". Anything for readers 10+ I expect 100 pages or more in 12- or 13- size font. A page would be anywhere from 5×8 to 6×9 in size. So if you read "Goodnight Moon" to your daughter, some parents may be counting that as a book they read for themselves for the year…

Nate Hoffelder October 21, 2015 um 5:40 pm

Good point. I think that was left undefined for the survey subjects.

Robert October 30, 2015 um 12:30 pm

My physical book reading count has decreased but I read a lot of articles that are available on the web. These are not just snippets but lengthly ones that I usually save for later study. Do these qualify for ebooks?

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