A new Pew research study found that nearly three-quarters (73%) of the American public read books today, and this number hasn’t changed significantly in the last five years, though how they read is evolving. (E-device usage has climbed from 17% to 28% from 2011 to 2016.) All of that reading makes an author very happy—until she compares those figures to the 1970s, when only 8% of the American public answering a Gallup poll indicated they’d not read at least one book in the last year. That means up to 92% of us were reading.
Ah well, with so much information and distraction thrown at the public every day from multiple sources, the numbers shouldn’t surprise me. Those of us who put words on a page and hope someone sees and understands them will take what we can get. And some of the other stats from the 2016 Pew study are promising.
For example, the percentage of us who read simply for pleasure (as opposed to work, study or to keep up with current events) has remained steady over the last five years at about 80% of readers. Since mom and I write to entertain others, I’m pleased with that statistic. And nearly 35% of the Pew study respondents said they pursue this passion nearly every day.
I also found the figures on print vs. electronics heartening: people still like to hold a printed book in their hands and that number seems to be holding its own: The same number of people who read a print book in 2012 (65%) read in this format in 2016. What’s more, nearly four in ten (38%) said they read print books exclusively while just 6% read only through digital device.
E-book reading appears to have stabilized at 28% of readers where it’s been since 2014, though how that reading is getting done is changing: many more people are reading on computer tablets and cell phones while e-readers have stayed about the same. Interestingly, young people today are no more likely to read by digital device than their counterparts: 6% of 18- to 29-year-olds read books electronically only compared to 7% of 30- to 49-year-olds and 5% of those over 50.
Americans today read an average of about a book a month, and that number also hasn’t changed in the last five years. College graduates read more books (a median of about 7 per month); those who have not graduated from college are much more likely to use cell phones. The share of people who read to do research on a specific topic appears to be growing: 84% of Americans said they read a book for that reason, and 29% said they do so every day.
But all of these numbers are just numbers. Mom and I are much more heartened by what we discover at every event we attend and that is: readers are passionate about their past-time. Although we occasionally get the person who has no time or desire to look at a book, we get many more that are in awe that we’ve managed to produce five books in a few years. By far the most common comments are: “Of course I’m a reader” and “I always wanted to write a book.”
Join us next week (Sept. 15; 4 to 7, Dumfries Applebee’s) as we celebrate that fifth book: Treasured Fate. We know you’ll find others that share your love of reading.