Young Americans Still Read Print Books, Use Library

Glasses sitting on open books.
Open books and spectacles. (Image credit: Tischenko Irina, Shutterstock)

A majority of young Americans have read a print book and used their local public library in the past year, a new survey found. And while e-books have not greatly supplanted their paper counterparts, the rise of digital content seems to be driving up reading rates for many Americans under 30, according to the poll.

In the Pew study, 83 percent of respondents between age 16 and 29 said they read a book in the past 12 months — a whopping 75 percent picked up a real book while 19 percent read an e-book and 11 percent listened to an audiobook.

Sixty percent of Americans in this age set said they used their local library in the past year, mostly for research and borrowing books (including e-books).

Nearly half (47 percent) of the respondents said they read long-form e-content, including books, magazines or newspapers. Among this group, 40 percent said they are reading more these days due to the availability of digital content. But only 10 percent of this group borrowed an e-book from the library. Most weren't aware they could do so but said they would be interested in borrowing pre-loaded e-readers if their library offered that service.

A majority of e-book readers under 30 read their e-books on a desktop or laptop computer, while the second most popular method is by cell phone. Just 23 percent used an e-reader like a Kindle or Nook and 16 percent use a tablet.

Many young e-content consumers in the study mentioned how they have started to read more while traveling or waiting in line since getting into the habit of e-reading.

"I am reading more now that I have purchased an e-reader," one college-age respondent wrote in the survey. "I find that by having an e-reader I have developed a habit of reading in my spare time (it's very convenient to take my e-reader with me) and I am discovering more books to read on my device."

But many e-content readers still prefer the physical experience of reading a print edition.

"I am a very reluctant technology user," one female respondent in her late twenties wrote. "I only occasionally request e-books, as I prefer the overall experience of reading an actual book. It somehow feels more warm and personal."

The Pew Research Center's study was based on a nationally-representative phone survey of 2,986 people ages 16 and older that was conducted from Nov. 16 to Dec. 21, 2011.

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