Three in ten Americans now read e-books

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Americans divide their consumption of books into several formats. The proportion of adults who have read printed books in the past 12 months still exceeds the proportion of adults using other forms, but 30% now report having read an e-book during this period.

A line graph showing that printed books continue to be more popular than e-books or audiobooks

Overall, 75% of U.S. adults report having read a book in the past 12 months in any format, whether fully or partially, a figure that has remained largely unchanged since 2011, according to one. Pew Research Center survey conducted on January 1. February 25-8, 2021. Printed books remain the most popular reading format, with 65% of adults reporting having read a printed book in the past year.

While the shares of print book readers and audiobook listeners remain virtually unchanged from a 2019 Center survey, the share of Americans who say they read e-books has increased from 25% to 30% .

The Pew Research Center has been studying how Americans read books for years. For this analysis, we interviewed 1,502 American adults from January 25 to February 8, 2021, by cell phone and landline. The survey was conducted by investigators under the direction of Abt Associates and is weighted to be representative of the American adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, education, and other categories. Here are the questions, answers and methodology used for this analysis.

Americans have read on average (on average) about 14 books in the past 12 months and the typical American (median) has read five books during that time, according to the survey. These numbers are the same as in 2011, when the Center began conducting surveys of Americans’ book reading habits.

A pie chart showing that a third of Americans say they have read both print and digital books in the past year

Despite the growth of some digital formats, relatively few Americans remain alone consume digital books (which include audiobooks and e-books) excluding print. Some 33% of Americans read in these digital formats and also read printed books, while 32% say they only read printed books. Only 9% of Americans say they have read only digital books and have not read any printed books in the past 12 months.

The demographic differences in book reading in 2021 are similar to trends seen in the Centre’s previous surveys. For example, adults with a bachelor’s or graduate degree are more likely to be book readers than those who only attended certain colleges and those with a high school diploma or younger, and adults aged 18 to 29 are more likely to read books than those 65 and older. At the same time, the book consumption habits of a few groups have changed since 2019. Some examples:

Low income adults – The share of adults with an annual household income of less than $ 30,000 who listened to an audiobook has increased by 8 percentage points since 2019 (22% vs. 14%).

Urban adults – The proportion of American adults living in urban communities who report having read a book in any format in the past 12 months has risen from 75% in 2019 to 81% today, an increase of 6 points percentage.

The table below shows how the different groups reported their reading habits in the survey.

A bar graph showing that college graduates are particularly likely to say they read books in any format

Note: Here are the questions, answers and methodology used for this analysis. This is an update of an article by Andrew Perrin originally published on September 1, 2016.

Michelle Faverio is a research analyst specializing in Internet research and technology at the Pew Research Center.

André Perrin is an Internet and technology-focused research analyst at the Pew Research Center.


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