Now It's Digital Book Worms

According to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, in the past year the number of those who read e-books increased from 16% of all Americans ages 16 and older to 23%. At the same time, the number of those who read printed books in the previous 12 months fell from 72% of the population ages 16 and older to 67%. Overall, the number of book readers in late 2012 was 75% of the population ages 16 and older, a small and statistically insignificant decline from 78% in late 2011.

The number of owners of either a tablet computer or e-book reading device such as a Kindle or Nook grew from 18% in late 2011 to 33% in late 2012. As of November 2012, 25% of Americans, 16 and older, own tablet computers such as iPads or Kindle Fires, up from 10% who owned tablets in late 2011. And in late 2012 19% of Americans ages 16 and older own e-book reading devices such as Kindles and Nooks, compared with 10% who owned such devices at the same time last year.

EReading Device Ownership (% of Americans Owning Selected Device)

Date of Survey

EBook Readers

Tablet

Either Tablet or EBook

May, 2010

4%

3%

6%

May, 2011

12

8

17

December, 2011

10

10

18

November, 2012

19

25

33

Source: PewResearch, January 2013

The move toward e-books has affected libraries. The share of recent library userswho have borrowed an e-book from a library has increased from 3% last year to 5% this year, and awareness of e-book lending by libraries is growing. The share of those in the overall population who are aware that libraries offer e-books has jumped from 24% late last year to 31% now.

In the book-reading population, those most likely to read e-books include those with college or graduate degrees, those who live in households earning more than $75,000, and those whose ages fall between 30 and 49.

The tables included are based on those who say they had read a book in the past 12 months, not the full population of those ages 16 and older.

EBook Readers (Among Readers of At Least 1 Book in Previous 12 Months, % Who Read At Least 1 EBook)

Reader

% EBook Readers In November 2012

All readers

21%

   Men

31

   Women

31

Age

   16-17

28

   18-29

31

   30-39

41

   50-64

23

   65+

24

Race/Ethnicity

   White, non-Hispanic

31

   Black, non-Hispanic

30

   Hispanic

24

Annual HH Income

   < $30M/yr

19

   $30-49.9M

28

   $50-74.9M

38

   $75,000+

44

Education

 

   No high school diploma

21

   High school grad

20

   Some college

31

   College+

42

Urbanity

   Urban

34

   Suburban

32

   Rural

20

Source: Pew Research, January 2013

The survey showed that 75% of Americans ages 16 and older had read a book in any platform in the previous 12 months. That is not statistically significantly different from the 78% who in late 2011 said in a survey they had read a book in the previous 12 months. Of them:

  • 89% of the book readers said they had read a printed book. This translates into 67% of all those ages 16 and older
  • 30% of the book readers said they had read an e-book. This translates into 23% of all those ages 16 and older
  • 17% of the book readers said they had listened to an audio book. This translates into 13% of all those ages 16 and older

All told, those book readers consumed an average of 15 books in the previous 12 months and a median of 6 books. Half had read fewer than six and half had read more than six. That breaks down as:

  • 7% of Americans ages 16 and older read one book in the previous 12 months
  • 14% had read 2-3 books in that time block
  • 12% had read 4-5 books
  • 15% had read 6-10 books
  • 13% had read 11-20 books
  • 14% had read 21 or more books

Percent of All Americans Reading At Least One Book in Previous 12 Months All or Part of the Way Through

 

% Book Readers

Average Books Read

All readers

75%

15

   Men

70

13

   Women

81

17

Age

   16-17

90

13

   18-29

80

13

   30-39

77

16

   50-64

72

15

   65+

67

18

Race/Ethnicity

   White, non-Hispanic

78

16

   Black, non-Hispanic

74

11

   Hispanic

60

13

Annual HH Income

   < $30M/yr

66

14

   $30-49.9M

78

18

   $50-74.9M

81

15

   $75,000+

84

15

Education

No high school diploma

55

10

   High school grad

66

17

   Some college

82

13

   College+

90

18

Urbanity

   Urban

78

14

   Suburban

75

16

   Rural

72

17

Source: Pew Research, January 2013

This move toward e-books has also affected libraries. The share of recent library users who have borrowed an e-book from a library has increased from 3% last year to 5% this year. And, there is growing public awareness that the vast majority of public libraries now lend e-books. In the entire population of those ages 16 and older, the number who are aware that libraries offer e-book loans increased from 24% last year to 31% now. And, 57% say they don’t know if their library offers e-books, vs. 63% of those ages 16 and above did not know if their library offered e-books for borrowing last year.

For more information about this study from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, please visit here.

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