Millennials Read and Use Libraries as Much as Their Parents, Study Finds

A Pew report released today suggests the future for books and libraries is bright because younger Americans are still reading as much as their elders.

The findings offer another, more hopeful facet to the evolving portrait of millennials’ reading habits, at a time when other recent research shows that demographic putting down books in favor of other media, a concern widely echoed in the publishing world.

Instead, Pew researchers found teenagers and young adults are neck-and-neck or even slightly ahead of older Americans when it comes to reading. 88% of the 30-and-under crowd reported reading a book in the past year, a rate higher than the 79% of those aged 30 and over who reported doing so.


That’s good news for ebooks, too. “Young adults have caught up to those in their thirties and forties in e-reading,” the report’s authors write. 37% of 18-29 year-olds report having read an ebook in the past year. And that’s despite findings that indicate millennials are more likely to be skeptical of digital media when it comes to seeking out information.

If millennials aren’t turning to libraries to fill that role as a result, they’re not turning away from them, either, the study found. Younger Americans are more likely than older groups to utilize library technology, but they tend to place less value on those resources.

In-person public library attendance continues to fall among all age groups, while the use of library websites is rising, driven largely by younger patrons. “36% of younger Americans used a library website last year,” the report finds, “up from 28% in 2012, with the largest growth occurring among 16-17 year-olds (from 23% to 35%).”

Millennials’ habits when it comes to reading and library use may differ from those of their parents, but these findings suggest they aren’t falling off wholesale. The challenge for publishers and libraries will be in continuing to offer younger readers the resources they’re looking for, and in forms they want.

The full Pew report is here.


Chart credit: Pew Research Center

3 thoughts on “Millennials Read and Use Libraries as Much as Their Parents, Study Finds

  1. Michael W. Perry

    If you were seven and up, would you carry one of the Kindles—either epaper or tablet—with you most of the time? Of course not. They’re fragile. They don’t like being wet. They’re too large to fit in anything but an adult coat pocket. And even if that you you didn’t worry about the money lost if one got lost or damaged, your parents would. For kids up into teens, Kindles, Nooks and iPads are not always a good idea.

    What’s needed is a pocket-sized kids epaper reader, one that’s cheap, rugged and has an easily replaced battery. One that isn’t proprietary, meaning it can get ebooks from a host of sources. And it need not look like a toy. It can be all that without being something that an adult wouldn’t mind carrying with them. In fact, outdoor-minded adults will like them too. Our smartphones are far too fragile, even when wrapped inside cases. On vacation we have to worry too much about them getting stolen.

    When I was a kid, I spent many hours perched far up in a tree reading. I also spent much time wandering about in woods, always with a trusty pocket knife and a few other odds and ends just in case. What didn’t merge were those two worlds. Books were thick hardbacks, mostly boys adventure stories and scifi, that I checked out of the library. I couldn’t carry them with me while prowling streams and creeks. I moved clumsily between two worlds: my own outdoor adventures and those in books.

    What’s needed is an ebook reader that merges the two worlds of kids, rough and tumble outdoor play and reading. A kid that’s doing the first should be able to switch to doing the second in an instant.

    –Michael W. Perry, Inkling Books

  2. Publerati

    Thanks for sharing this but do you or Pew know what percentage of the total US population paid money to buy at least one book, print or e last year? Isn’t it horribly low, as in 2-3%? I think a great irony of paper books is how many are shared and read many times without generating author or publisher royalties, something licensed ebooks help prevent. Thanks if you or your readers know.

  3. John @ HTML5 Conversion

    And in fact, the survey says millenials read more than any other generations. It’s also good to know that they buy more books than what they borrow which shows an alive book industry. It’s just that maybe the youngsters also think ‘kindle’ is a book.



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