The National Endowment for the Arts monitored American reading habits in 2017 and have just issued a new report. They found that adults who read ebooks and listen to audiobooks consumed the most books per year: a median of 10 compared to four for print-only readers. Print reading, though, is ceding to e-book reading and audiobook listening. In the survey, 44.5% of adults said they read or listened to books in digital formats and just 25.1% of adults stating that read print books alone.
When it comes to people who read or listen digitally, 50.6% said they read only ebooks, while 35.6% said they read ebooks and audiobooks, and 13.8% stated that they just dig audiobooks. The report was a byproduct of a survey done in 2017 by a group of 1,500 people. I think it is important to note that since the data was analyzed, audiobook sales have exploded. A Pew Research Center study early this year found that the number of adults who used audiobooks in the past year climbed 6% from the 2018 period. Data from publishers support this narrative. An Association of American Publishers report, also from earlier this year, showed that sales of downloaded audiobooks leapt 37% from 2017 to 2018, marking the third consecutive year of double-digit growth for the category. In Britain, publishers have remarked a similar rise, noting a bump in audiobook sales even while print-book sales have dropped.
Some other takeaways from the report:
- Young readers, especially those aged 18-24, are more likely than other groups to be digital/audio readers who also may be reading print books. Americans aged 65 and older are more likely than other groups to be print-only readers.
- Regardless of the format they use, older Americans read books at generally higher rates than younger readers.
- Readers of poetry and graphic novels are more likely to be digital/audio readers (who may also read print books) than print-only readers. By contrast, readers of novels or short stories, or works of biography, history, and religion, are more likely to be print-only readers.
- Digital/audio readers frequently engage in other cultural activities and support the arts. Print-only readers report comparably lower levels of these activities.
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times.