Who Reads Books in the US?

September 12, 2016

This article is included in these additional categories:

African-American | Boomers & Older | Hispanic | Men | Women | Youth & Gen X

Pew-Demographics-US-Book-Readers-Sept2016The percentage of American adults who read books has remained relatively unchanged in the past few years, reports the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project in a recent study [pdf]. Almost 3 in 4 adults say they had read a book in the 12 months prior to the survey, with printed books continuing to be the most popular format.

In fact, close to two-thirds (65%) of adults surveyed said they had read a printed book in the previous 12 months, a figure which is unchanged from 2012 despite some fluctuations in between. That’s more than double the proportion (28%) who have read an e-book, though that figure has grown since 2012. Interestingly, it’s the device being used to read e-books that has seen the biggest shift, with tablets and cellphones in particular growing markedly to overtake computers and e-readers as the most commonly-used devices.

Meanwhile, about 1 in 7 (14%) of US adults reported having listened to an audio book in the 12 months prior to the survey, a figure fairly unchanged since 2012.

So who’s reading what?

On a gender basis, women are the more avid book readers, per the study, being 13% more likely than men to have read a book in the prior 12 months (77% vs. 68%). Non-Hispanic Whites (76%) outpace non-Hispanic Blacks (69%) and Hispanics (58%) in book-reading incidence, while there’s a clear age trend in play, with Millennials (18-28) being the most likely to read books (80%) and Boomers (65+) the least likely (67%).

Separately, the results show that the more highly educated the respondents, the more likely they are to have read a book, with a similar positive correlation evident with income.

These trends generally hold steady across formats, with the only exception being audio books, which don’t display the same gender, education, or income skew as do the other formats.

The demographic breakdowns can be seen in the chart above, while the complete report can be found here [pdf].

About the Data The results are based on a Pew Research Center survey conducted March 7-April 4, 2016, among a national sample of 1,520 adults, 18 years of age or older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. Fully 381 respondents were interviewed on a landline telephone, and 1,139 were interviewed on a cellphone, including 636 who had no landline telephone. The survey was conducted by interviewers at Princeton Data Source under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates International.

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