Fewer Americans reading print books

Pew Research shot - fewer American adults reading print booksWith the continued impact of eBooks, the growth of audiobooks, and the ever-present time-gobble of TV, movies, video games and the Internet, is it any surprise that fewer adults are buying and reading good-ole print?

A new study by the Pew Research Center states that “seven-in-ten American adults (72%) have read a book within the past year, whether in whole or in part and in any format, according to a survey conducted in March and April. That figure has fallen from 79% who said in 2011 they had read a book in the previous year, but is statistically in line with survey findings starting in 2012.”

It’s a but stunning to realize that, according to this report, only 72% of American adults report reading a book in the past year — in any format. That figure is down from 79% in 2011, a disturbing trend to say the least when your business is selling books. It’s also shameful, in my opinion, that possibly 28% of Americans have not read a single book in the past 12 months. I don’t know if this includes comic books, which absolutely count.

But there’s good news in that research report, fo sho. Eighty percent of young adults – defined as ages 18-29 in this survey —have read a book in the past 12 months, which is miles above the 71% of ages 30 to 49, and the 685 of those 50 to 64. That’s right: I believe the children are our future.

The data reveal a somewhat surprising generational pattern in book reading. Young adults – those ages 18 to 29 – are more likely than their elders to have read a book in the past 12 months. Fully 80% of young adults read a book, compared with 71% of those ages 30 to 49, 68% of those 50 to 64 and 69% of those 65 and older. Cue the Whitney Houston, folks.

The report states that audio book consumption has remained stable at 12% of Americans at all ages. This is a surprise to us here at Empty Set, as audiobook sales growth is a big-ass chunk of our business. We put out ALIVE, TITLE FIGHT and THE REPORTER audiobooks in the last twelve months and have seen strong sales.


  1. BigJohn

    There are fewer people reading print books than there were last year, but the stats still show that print is quite a ways above e-books. THE BOOK IS DEAD! LONG LIVE THE BOOK!

    I wonder if that is a product of our times as well. It would be interesting to see the same information about newspaper reading – like how many people get their news from newspapers vs. newspaper websites vs. blogs, etc.