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Who doesn’t read books in America?

4 October 2019

From The Pew Research Center:

Roughly a quarter of U.S. adults (27%) say they haven’t read a book in whole or in part in the past year, whether in print, electronic or audio form, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted Jan. 8 to Feb. 7. Who are these non-book readers?

. . . .

[A]dults with a high school diploma or less are far more likely than those with a bachelor’s or advanced degree to report not reading books in any format in the 12 months before the survey (44% vs. 8%). Adults with lower levels of educational attainment are also among the least likely to own smartphones, a device that saw a substantial increase in usage for reading e-books from 2011 to 2016. (College-educated adults are more likely to own these devices and use them to read e-books.)

Adults whose annual household income is $30,000 or less are more likely than those living in households earning $75,000 or more a year to be non-book readers (36% vs. 14%). Hispanic (40%) and black (33%) adults are more likely than whites (22%) to report not having read a book in the past 12 months. But there are differences between Hispanics born inside and outside the United States: 56% of foreign-born Hispanics report not having read a book, compared with 27% of Hispanics born in the U.S.

. . . .

The same demographic traits that characterize non-book readers also often apply to those who have never been to a library. In a 2016 survey, we found that Hispanics, older adults, those living in households earning less than $30,000 and those who have a high school diploma or did not graduate from high school are the most likely to report they have never been to a public library.

Link to the rest at The Pew Research Center

Books in General, Libraries

13 Comments to “Who doesn’t read books in America?”

  1. I wonder the sample size of these stats?

    • If you actually go to the article you need wonder no more.

      • I actually did go to the article. Only percentages are reported. My question is how many people–not what percentage. What was the sample size? 100? 1000? 10,000? And do these numbers truly represent the entire population? Doubtful.

        • A sample size of 1,000 can yield a margin of error of appx 3.5%. However, that’s for a sample where each member of the target population has an equal chance of being selected for the sample.

          Election samples are very often right around 1,000.

          For many popular studies, samples are wildly unreliable because of how they were selected.

  2. In the distant past, I was totally boggled when a tech coworker noticed me reading during my leisure time and said, “I read a book once.”

  3. The offspring were brought up on mountains of books (we home-schooled); must ask them if they’re still reading or if they’ve gone all modern and digital.

    Hadn’t thought to ask.

    • Having ‘gone all modern and digital’ doesn’t mean they’ve stopped reading – heck, I do +90% of my reading on a screen.

      So, you can ask if they still read – if so you can then ask how. 😉

      • I know they read – mounds – but I haven’t asked lately if they are reading whole books of fiction, which I did compulsively at their age, right at the beginnings of the computer penetration of the market, but way before ebooks and Amazon.

        Following a long story (even in ebook) is a good exercise for the mind – everything online is choppy by comparison.

  4. None of these surveys are worth anything because they don’t ask the right questions.

    They don’t ask *why* people read books, if at all.
    Eliminate textbooks, manuals, and work-related stuff and the pool of “book readers” shrinks dramatically.

    Ask how many books are willingly read a year and the number of “book readers” shrinks even more.

    The question: Who doesn’t read books in America?” has one answer: “A lot more than those who do.”

    Any report that pretends three out of four read is smoke and mirrors. I question the motives behind any such misrepresentation.

    • I think there have always been fewer readers than non-readers. To me the more interesting question is: Has the digital age changed this ratio? With or without the education/economic measurements?
      On one hand, we have e-books that are instantly accessible and even free. On the other, there are more entertainment options – social media/apps/games.

      • The number of books bought per voluntary reader and the total reader expense per year would also matter.

        Best guess would be growth of the units and decline in the latter for ebook buyers and a big decline for both on the print side.

        One thing that gives the lie to many of these “studies” is that total trade book sales revenue has been flat all century while population has grown by at least ten percent and the volume of the cheapest books, mmpb, has dropped dramatically. Enough so the establishment stopped reporting it early this decade.

        • Thank you, Felix. My personal experience is that I spend less. I only read e-books and very few over $5.00
          However, my overall consumption is higher, because of the easy access, cost and variety.
          There is certainly competition with other screen entertainment. How much of it I’m going to dedicate to reading is going to be almost entirely based on how good the current book is. If every book was 5 star, I would prefer to mostly read. If whatever I’m reading is good enough to finish but not super engaging, I will find myself drifting to something else regularly…shopping, blogs, social media, etc.

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