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Summary:

A new Pew report on young Americans’ reading habits and library usage finds most of them reading ebooks on cell phones or computers — but the data is nearly a year old.

People reading books
photo: Flickr / Jon Feinstein

A new report (PDF) from the Pew Internet and American Life Project surveyed 16- to 29-year-olds on their reading habits and library usage.

That’s obviously a broad group, including both high schoolers and twenty-somethings, but my main problem with this report is that a lot of the data in it is nearly a year old, “from a nationally representative phone survey of 2,986 people ages 16 and older that was administered from November 16-December 21, 2011.” On the digital front, a lot has changed over the past year, including a larger number of people reading ebooks. Still, some findings:

  • 83 percent of Americans ages 16 to 29 read a book in the past year (again, that year is 2011): 75 percent read a print book, 19 percent read an ebook, 11 percent listened to an audiobook.
  • “High school-aged readers (ages 16-17), along with readers over 65, are less likely than other age groups to have read an e-book in the past year.”
  • This group is more likely to read an ebook on a computer or a cell phone than on an e-reader (see chart). Again, note this data is from 2011 and the survey is also conducted before the holidays, when a lot of people might have received an e-reader as a gift — in fact, another Pew report, released in January 2012, found that tablet and e-reader ownership “nearly doubled” between mid-December 2011 and January 2012.
  • “Many of these young readers do not know they can borrow an e-book from a library, and a majority of them express the wish they could do so on pre-loaded e-readers. Some 10% of the e-book readers in this group have borrowed an e-book from a library and, among those who have not borrowed an e-book, 52% said they were unaware they could do so. Some 58% of those under age 30 who do not currently borrow e-books from libraries say they would be ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ likely to borrow pre-loaded e-readers if their library offered that service.”

Photo courtesy of Flickr / Jon Feinstein

  1. Interesting to see 16 to 29 segment more likely to read on a cell phone than an e-reader. I predict this number has increased in the last year and would also expect that the desktop and laptop will become much less popular for content consumption as prices continue to decline on e-readers and tablets and they become more accessible to a wider audience as well as the experience on those devices continuing to improve.

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  2. The word ”data’ is plural. Anyone competent to report — much less criticize — a study knows that. So the data aren’t ‘old.’ Yes you’ve regurgitated a lot of spin and press releases over the last year, but attitudes and behaviors out in the real world (where no one has ever heard of this publication) don’t change that fast.

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    1. Thanks for the comment. Actually, both usages for data — singular and plural — are accepted nowadays especially in non-academic writing. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2010/jul/16/data-plural-singular)

      And when it comes to device ownership, which is what this study is about, behaviors do change fast, especially when you’re talking about young people and holiday gifts.

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