Reading habits of Americans
Here’s Pew’s report on the subject. I’ve included some numbers from the report below. Click to view tables in full size.
When interpreting the numbers in the post, do have in mind that people often lie about their reading habits. Also note that this may be an extremely biased sample; the cooperation rate is around 20% and the combined response rate was around 12,5% (1 in 8). I don’t know what kind of cooperation rate you usually get out of surveys like these, but my first instinct is to be critical seeing numbers like those; there may be a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes (out of sample). Anyway, ‘to the data…’:
About 1 in 5 didn’t read a book over the last 12 months, whereas about a third read 1-5. Approximately two-thirds read less than one book a month on average. But the interesting part to me was how many belonged in the category 11-50; about one in 4. That’s a lot more than I’d have thought. The 5% in the 50+ is also significantly higher than I’d have thought; I read 14 hours yesterday, I’m at maybe 30 hours this week so far (including all book reading, including ‘work book reading’ – though I must hasten to add that not all work is ‘book reading’) and I don’t think I’m even close to reading that many books over the course of a year. Of course ‘not all books are the same’, but even so. Not surprisingly the distribution is somewhat skewed: The mean was 17 books and the median was 8.
Females read more, old people read more and people who’ve been to college read more than people who have not. I thought it was interesting here that if you include education income is insignificant.
They do provide a more detailed picture of the number of books read. Of the people who read at least one book over the last 12 months, 8% had read one book, 17% had read 2-3 books, 16% had read 4-5 books, 19% had read 6-10, 18% had read 11-20 books and 22% had read more than 20 books. This means that 31% read 1-5 books per year (‘infrequent readers’), 28% read 6-20 (‘medium readers’) and only 17% (~1 in 6) of the population read more than 20 books per year (‘frequent readers’).
“A fifth of Americans (18%) said they had not read a book in the past year. This group is more likely to be: male than female (23% vs. 14%), Hispanic than white or black (28% vs. 17% and 16%), age 65 or older (27%), lacking a high school diploma (34%), living in households earning less than $30,000 (26%), unemployed (22%), and residents of rural areas 25%. Those who did not read a book last year also tended not to be technology users.”
I found none of those associations to be the least bit surprising.
58% regularly read daily news or newspapers. 48% regularly read magazines or journals. Even though it makes sense I did find it interesting that income becomes significant when looking at those numbers even when you account for education.
“Altogether, 43% of Americans age 16 and older have read long-form writing in digital format as of December 2011 – either e-books or newspaper or magazine material in digital form. We get that figure by combining those in the December survey who have read e-books with the 31% of those who regularly read news content and have read that content in digital format and the 16% who read magazines and journals and have read that content in digital format.
Those who have taken the plunge into reading e-books stand out in almost every way from other kinds of readers. They read more books than other readers. They read more frequently and are more likely than others to read for more purposes. They consume books in all formats, including print and audio: 88% of those who read e-books in the past 12 months also read print books. But they are also more likely than others to have bought their most recent book, rather than borrowed it, and they are more likely than others to say they prefer to purchase books.
Demographically, as of February 2012, the adults age 18 and older who read e-books are disproportionately likely to be under age 50, with higher levels of education and income.”
“64% of those 16 and older said they get book recommendations from family members, friends, or co-workers. […] 28% said they get recommendations from online bookstores or other websites. […] 23% said they get recommendations from staffers in bookstores they visit in person. […] 19% said they get recommendations from librarians or library websites.”
About one in four to one in five got recommendations from staffers in bookstores. I was surprised the number is that high. Some more detail: “Those most likely to get recommendations this way include: college graduates (28%), those living in households earning more than $75,000 (30%), parents of minor children (27%), technology owners and users, urban and suburban residents, and those under age 65.” The ‘college graduates’ really surprised me, as did the income one. The income one can perhaps be explained in terms of higher search costs because of higher opportunity cost of time but that’s not exactly convincing. Maybe it’s a ‘what are smart, rich, successful, educated people like me supposed to be reading these days’-effect?
I didn’t really care about the gadget stuff in the report but some of you may find that interesting.