Pew Research: Bookworms Going Increasingly Digital

Digital bookworms
Pew finds more readership of e-books, mirroring the healthy increase in tablet computer, smartphone and e-reader sales.

According to the Pew Research Center’s latest survey of American adults (ages 16 and older), ownership of a tablet computer or an e-reader such as a Kindle or Nook has grown substantially in the past year.

According to Pew’s year-over-year findings, ownership grew from ~18% in late 2011 to ~33% by late 2012.

[For those who are counting, tablet ownership increased from ~10% to ~25% of adults, while e-reader ownership rose a little slower, from a similar 10% level to about 19%.]

Based on these findings from Pew, it shouldn’t come as much surprise that e-book readership is also on the rise.

Other results in the Pew survey confirm this: The percent of U.S. adults who read an e-book within the past year is now ~23%, up from ~16% a year earlier.

Conversely, the proportion of printed book readers is declining; Pew finds that ~67% of adults read at least one printed book during the year, which is a drop from ~75% in late 2012 and ~78% in late 2011.

Who are most likely to be reading e-books? According to Pew, they’re the “usual suspects”: better-educated (college or greater); higher-income ($75,000+ annual household income); and folks who are in the 30-49 age range.

No significant differences were discerned in gender or racial segments, although the incidence of e-book readership skews somewhat higher among urban/suburban dwellers compared to those living in rural areas.

And there’s one other type of book platform with some degree of popularity among U.S. adults: ~13% of respondents reported that they had listened to at least one audio book over the course of the year.

Now to a fundamental question: Are we a nation of readers?

The answer to that question depends on your point of view, of course. Some people devour books all the time, while others will do anything they can to avoid reading a single one.

The Pew survey found that book readers tackled an average of 15 books across all “platforms” during the course of the year.

But the median number of books read was just six, leading one to conclude that some people are really, really voracious readers, and they drive the average much higher than the median figure.

Additional findings from the always-interesting Pew research in its invaluable Internet & American Life Project can be found here, for those who are interested in looking through more of the “entrails” …

3 thoughts on “Pew Research: Bookworms Going Increasingly Digital

  1. Of course, e-book gadgets have been around for years, but they never got any traction …

    Until all of a sudden they did — almost overnight.

    My conjecture is the iPad has given a huge boost to all e-book platforms. After all, we now use tablets for so many things; why not for reading magazines and books?

    In any event, the e-book phenomenon reminds me of that line from Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises.” Bill Gorton asks Mike Campbell how he managed to go bankrupt. ‘”Two ways,’ Mike said. ‘Gradually and then suddenly.”‘

    It wasn’t that long ago that publishers were wondering if e-books would ever take off. (Phil, I think you even blogged about it.) Then Vro-o-o-om!

  2. Not surprising for me, though. 🙂

    I developed a habit of reading e-books (only) when I was in the third trimester of my graduation, and ever since would always prefer to read online on whatever topic I like.

    However, it was only yesterday that I figured out that to get into the habit of sleeping early, I need to read printed books and avoid putting laptops/cellphones near my bed! So we’ll see how that goes.

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