Commentary

Print Bookworms Outnumber E-Readers 2 to 1

As the number of ways people spend their time has expanded, a recent Pew Research Center survey, authored by Andrew Perrin, finds that the share of Americans who have read a book in the last 12 months (73%) has remained largely unchanged since 2012. And when people reach for a book, says the report, it is much more likely to be a traditional print book than a digital product. 65% of Americans have read a print book in the last year, more than double the share that has read an e-book.

advertisement

advertisement

Print Books More Popular Than EBooks or Audio Books

 

2011

2012

2014

2015

2016

Read book, any format

79%

74%

76%

72%

73

Read print book

71

65

69

63

65

Read EBook

17

23

28

27

28

Source: Pew Research Center, October 2016

Excerpts from Perrin are copied and reproduced here to describe the survey findings. While print remains at the center of the book-reading landscape as a whole, the share of e-book readers on tablets has more than tripled since 2011 and the number of readers on phones has more than doubled over that time. And smartphones are playing an especially prominent role in the e-reading habits of certain demographic groups, such as non-whites and those who have not attended college.

Americans read an average of 12 books per year, while the typical (median) American has read 4 books in the last 12 months. Each of these figures is largely unchanged since 2011, when Pew Research Center first began conducting surveys of Americans’ book reading habits.

Readers today can access books in several common digital formats, but print books remain more popular than either e-books or audio books. 65% of Americans have read a print book in the last year, which is identical to the share of Americans who reported doing so in 2012

By contrast, 28% of Americans have read an e-book, and 14% have listened to an audio book, in the last year. E-book readership increased by 11-percentage points between 2011 and 2014, but has seen no change in the last two years.

Nearly four-in-ten Americans read print books exclusively, and just 6% are digital-only book readers, while 28% of Americans read books in both print and digital formats (which includes e-books and audio books). Some 38% read print books but did not read books in any digital formats, while just 6% read digital books but not print books.

Some demographic groups are slightly more likely than others to do all of their reading in digital format, says the report. For instance:

  • 7% of college graduates are digital-only book readers (compared with just 3% of those who have not graduated from high school)
  • 8% of those with annual household incomes of $75,000 or more (compared with 3% of Americans with incomes of $30,000 or less) are digital only book readers
  • Young adults are no more likely than older adults to be “digital-only” book readers, as 6% of 18- to 29-year-olds read books in digital formats only, compared with 7% of 30- to 49-year-olds and 5% of those 50 and older.

College graduates are roughly four times as likely to read e-books, and about twice as likely to read print books and audio books, compared with those who have not graduated high school, says the report.

As was the case in previous Pew Research Center surveys on book reading, certain groups of Americans read at relatively high rates and in a wide variety of formats, says the report. These include:

  • College graduates – Compared with those who have not attended college, college graduates are more likely to read books in general, more likely to read print books, and more likely to consume digital-book content. The typical (median) college graduate has read seven books in the last year.
  • Young adults – 80% of 18- to 29-year-olds have read a book in the last year, compared with 67% of those 65 and older. These young adults are more likely than their elders to read books in various digital formats, but are also more likely to read print books as well: 72% have read a print book in the last year, compared with 61% of seniors.
  • Women – Women are more likely than men to read books in general and also more likely to read print books. However, men and women are equally likely to read digital-format books such as e-books and audio books.
  • The share of Americans who read books on tablets or cellphones has increased substantially since 2011, while the share using dedicated e-readers has remained stable

Readers On Tablets And Cellphones (% US Adults Read E-Book in Previous Year)

 

Tablet/Computer

E-Book Reader

Desktop/Laptop

Cellphone

2011

4%

7%

7%

5%]

2016

15

8

11

13

Source: Pew Research Center, October 2016

Tablet computer and smartphone ownership have each increased dramatically in recent years, and a growing share of Americans are using these multipurpose mobile devices, rather than dedicated e-readers, to read books. Between 2011 and 2016, the number of Americans who read books on tablet computers has increased nearly fourfold, while the share who read books on smartphones has more than doubled.

The share of Americans who read books on desktop or laptop computers has also increased, although by a more modest amount: 11% of Americans now do this, up from 7% in 2011. By contrast, 8% of Americans now report that they read books using dedicated e-reader devices, nearly identical to the 7% who reported doing so in 2011.

By contrast, 8% of Americans now report that they read books using dedicated e-reader devices – nearly identical to the 7% who reported doing so in 2011.

About one-in-five Americans under the age of 50 have used a cellphone to read e-books; blacks and Americans who have not attended college are especially likely to turn to cellphone – rather than other digital devices – when reading e-books

Previous Pew Research Center studies have documented how several groups such as blacks and Latinos, and those who have not attended college, tend to rely heavily on smartphones for online access. And in the context of book reading, members of these groups are especially likely to turn to smartphones, rather than tablets or other types of digital devices, when they engage with e-book content, says the report.

  • For instance, 16% of blacks report that they use their cellphones to read books, nearly double the share of blacks who read books on traditional computers (9%) and four times the share who read books using dedicated e-readers (4%).
  • Hispanics are less likely than blacks as a whole to read books on cellphones (11% do so), but Hispanics are also substantially more likely to read books on cellphones than on e-readers or traditional computers.
  • By contrast, whites tend to turn to a range of digital devices when reading e-books: 13% read e-books on cellphones, but 18% read e-books on tablet computers, 10% use e-book readers and 11% engage with e-book content on desktop or laptop computers, says the report.

Cellphones also play a relatively prominent role in the reading habits of Americans who have not attended college.

  • College graduates are far more likely than those with high school diplomas or less to read books on tablets (25% vs. 7%), e-book readers (15% vs. 3%) or traditional computers (15% vs. 6%)
  • These differences are much less pronounced when it comes to reading books on cellphones. Some 17% of college graduates read books this way, compared with 11% of those with high school diplomas or less
  • Along with these groups, Americans under the age of 50 are especially likely to consume e-book content on cell phones: one-in-five (19%) do so, compared with 9% of 50- to 64-year-olds and just 4% of those 65 and older.

Among all American adults:

  • 84% ever read to research specific topics of interest (29% do so nearly every day).
  • 82% read to keep up with current events (47% nearly every day).
  • 80% read for pleasure (35% nearly every day).
  • 57% read for work or school (31% do so nearly every day).

A similar share of Americans report that they read for pleasure, for work or school, or to keep up with current events compared to the most recent time these questions were asked in 2011. However, the share of Americans who read in order to research specific topics of interest has increased by 10-percentage points over that time frame, from 74% to 84%, concludes the report.

For additional information about Pew, and to review the complete report as it was presented, please visit here

 

 

 

Next story loading loading..