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Summary:

A new survey suggests that adults who own an e-reader or tablet read more books than those who don’t own a device. The survey also found that younger people tend to read more books than older people.

A new survey from USA Today and book discovery website Bookish finds that U.S. adults who own a tablet or e-reader read more books than the device-less. The survey also found differences in reading habits between adults under 40 and adults over 40.

USA Today Bookish survey

The survey polled 1,000 adults nationwide and an additional 819 adults who own an e-reader or tablet. Overall, it found that 40 percent of adults — and 46 percent of those between 18 and 39 — owned a tablet or e-reader, “doubling the numbers from less than two years ago.”

Thirty-five percent of those who owned a device said they read more since getting it. Of the device owners, those ages 18-39 had read an average of 21 books in the past year, while respondents ages 40 and over had read an average of 16 books in the past year.

Those who didn’t own a device read fewer books: The 18- to 39-year-old group read an average of 13 books in the past year, and the 40-and-over crowd read an average of 11 books.

The USA Today survey also found that device owners have started reading more from certain genres since acquiring their device: 23 percent say they read more science fiction and fantasy, 16 percent said they read more mystery and crime, and 14 percent said they read more romance. Those genres sell particularly well in digital formats, and ebook discounts and sales on sites like Amazon often focus on those genres.

USA Today’s survey is generally in line with previous surveys showing that device owners read more.

The survey was conducted in August via phone by Princeton Survey Research Associates International.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock / photo.ua

  1. I would take issue with the “reading part” of this debate. If I buy about 100 books a year and read about 50. So does it mean I am reading more? No, I am buying more. If I read two pages of a book and read 200 pages in total, I have read 100 books? No. I think the question should be how many books people were buying/reading before tablets and buying/reading after tablets and eReaders.

    That said, the ease of buying is what prompts me to buy more books, but it doesn’t make reading them easy. I have started reverting back to paper as it is a much easier reading experience and a more focused on. Sure, it is a luxury but worth every penny.

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    1. So the survey’s actual question was “Are you reading more books since you purchased a device you can use to read e-books?” It’s totally possible though that some respondents took that to mean “buying more books.”

      I’m sad to say that I am almost positive I read FEWER books since getting a tablet, because there is so much other stuff to read on the tablet.

      Also wanted to refer readers to two good stories by Om on this:
      http://gigaom.com/2013/08/05/my-save-to-read-it-later-habits-visualized-as-an-infographic/

      http://gigaom.com/2013/08/08/some-new-data-further-thoughts-on-my-save-read-it-later-habits/

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      1. Thanks, Ms. Owen.

        My reading habits are good proof, what we save/buy isn’t what we read. I think no one will ever say they are reading fewer books — who wants to admit they are getting less “interested” in reading.

        Okay I am nit-picking now

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  2. Do you really think if everyone were buying 12 books a month the book business would be where it is today? That’s got to make you wonder.

    I also love that this consumer suvey came out the same day that Bloomberg Businesssweek reported findings with the headline:

    “Research and Markets: Book Publishing in the US: Book Publishers Experienced Slow Growth during the Five Years to 2013, and the Five Years to 2013 Will Bring More of the Same”

    http://buswk.co/15WMGxg

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    1. Peter, I couldn’t agree more. That’s what led me to write this short piece about some of the flaws in this survey and its results: http://bit.ly/199e6nB

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      1. Joe, that was a great post.

        Something else is probably going on here. Maybe the methodology is flawed as Joe and Peter suggest. Or maybe as Om suggests people are buying more books (maybe self-published, cheap ebooks that don’t show up in publishers’ financial results).

        In retrospect, I think I should have eyed this survey with more skepticism.

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        1. Hi Laura. My comment wasn’t intended to imply you didn’t do your homework on this. I’ve known you long enough to know that you can be as skeptical as I am. :-) I just believe there are other factors at work here and that, on the surface, the numbers can be very misleading. At any rate, keep up the terrific work!

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  3. Wow, interesting news. Is it that e readers and tablets are more mobile, so that you can read anywhere, anytime? And e books are often cheaper. However, the experience is not always more positive over a paper book… Interesting though whether it is actual reading or purchasing that is being surveyed…

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