Pew: Print Books Still More Popular Than Ebooks and Audiobooks

Pew Research CenterSixty-five percent of Americans have read a print book in the last year, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center, more than double the share that has read an ebook (28 percent) or listened to an audiobook (14 percent).

According to the survey, 73 percent of Americans have read a book in the last 12 months, a figure that has remained consistent since 2012. But nearly 40 percent of Americans read print books exclusively, compared to just 6 percent of Americans who are digital-only.

Many ebook readers are not using e-readers, according to the survey, opting instead for multipurpose devices, like tablets and smartphones; the share of ebook readers using tablets has more than tripled since 2011, and the number of ebook readers using smartphones has more than doubled over that time.

Some more findings from the survey:

• Americans read an average of 12 books per year. However, the typical American has read four books in the last 12 months.
• College graduates are nearly four times as likely to read ebooks, and twice as likely to read print books and listen to audiobooks, compared with those who have not graduated high school.
• Women (77 percent) are more likely than men (68 percent) to read books in general, and are also more likely to read print books (70 percent). However, men and women are equally likely to read ebooks and audiobooks.
• Nineteen percent of Americans under the age of 50 have used a cellphone to read ebooks.
• Cellphones play “a relatively prominent role” in the e-reading habits of blacks (16 percent), as well as those who have not attended college (11 percent).
• Eighty-four percent of American adults read to research specific topics of interest, while 82 percent read to keep up with current events, 80 percent read for pleasure, and 57 percent read for work or school.

The survey was conducted from March 7 through April 4, and used 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.

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2 thoughts on “Pew: Print Books Still More Popular Than Ebooks and Audiobooks

  1. Michael W. Perry

    Quote: “Americans read an average of 12 books per year. However, the typical American has read four books in the last 12 months.”

    Those who don’t know the difference between average and median may find that contradictory. Here’s what I suspect is the explanation.

    * Average of 12 books a year: That’s the average, which is calculated by dividing the number of books read by the number of Americans considered potential readers.

    * Typical American has read four books. That the median. In a list of people by books read, those who’ve read four books are in the middle. Roughly equal numbers of people have read less than four books or more than four.

    What creates that situation are all those who read substantially more than four books a year. By reading several dozen books, they inflate the average read to 12. But because they’re just one person, whether they read 5 books or 50 doesn’t shift that median figure. They’re simply among those who read more than four.

    For an analogy, consider this list of incomes, comparable to people reading 2, 3, 4, 8 and 20 books.


    The average income is all those incomes, $370,000 divided by 5 or $74,000. Notice that three of the five make substantially less than that.

    The typical (median) income is $40,000, because two people make less than than and two make more. The huge difference between avereage and median is primarly because the person earning $200,000 pulls the average income way up. The same is true of those who read lots of books. They drive the average number of books read way up.

    Here is a little secret. Bestselling fiction authors tend to write to people who read lots of books. They not only constitute a large slice of the market, get them hooked on you and you can sell book after book.

    I sometimes toy with the idea of writing a book titled, Write Badly and Get Rich. There are certain kinds of plot-making and writing styles that appeal to many of those heavy readers. The book would describe those techniques in detail for would-be authors. I doubt I will every write it though. I’ve tried to research such a book but haven’t been able to make myself read more that a few pages in those bestsellers without wanting the hurl them away in disgust.

    –Michael W. Perry, Inkling Books, Auburn, AL

  2. Wilson Wyatt

    Thank you. It’s valuable to read factual information about today’s reading habits for print v electronic media. PEW is a reputable polling source and is known for thoughtful analysis. Writers need good information about publishing techniques. There are too many conflicting opinions in our writers’ world.



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