October 19, 2015 Last Updated 3:20 pm

New Pew study finds small dip in book reading among Americans

But the good news is that young people are more likely to have read a book in the past 12 months

The Pew Research Center has released a new study tracking book reading habits among Americans and they find that there has been a slight dip in the number of adults that say they have read a book in the past 12 months. In the newest report 72 percent said they have read a book in the past 12 months, down from 76 percent last year, and 79 percent in 2011.

Pew-books-1eBook reading also fell, but only slightly – to 27 percent from 28 percent last year. But in 2011 this number was only at 17 percent (and that dip was surely within the margin for error).

What’s going on? Are Americans too busy to read, or is this the result of fewer area bookstores? The research, funded in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, does not speculate. Pew does, sadly, repeat data from the Association of American Publishers which many of us think is suspect, or at least incomplete (as the association represents only the larger publishers). Pew does mention, though, that their reports do show fluctuations through the years, and it is always possible that massive bestseller could skew the results as sometimes that kind of book is the only one read by some light readers.

One bit of good news is that younger adults, according to Pew, are more likely to have read a book in the past 12 months.

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.

This is only a one percent increase from last year for readers age 18 to 29, but other age brackets fell in 2015. On the downside, eBook reading among this group actually fell (from 37 percent to 34 percent).

Last year’s report really focused on the growth in tablet ownership, while this year’s report looks to be more limited in focus. It would have been nice if there was new data on tablets here as Pew saw a connection between growing tablet sales and eBook reading.

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