Trends in Reading, Technology and Library Use Among Americans

Considering the popularity of mobile web devices and e-readers it’s not surprising that nearly 1/5 of Americans read an e-book in 2011, although the majority of e-book readers under age 30 did so on their computer rather than a smart phone or tablet.  A new study from the Pew Research Center discusses this and other interesting reading and technology trends in the brief Younger Americans’ Reading and Library Habits.  The report by Kathryn Zickuhr, Lee Rainie, Kristen Purcell, Mary Madden and Joanna Brenner found that Americans under the age of 30 were more likely to read anything (in any form – magazine, book, web content, etc) than their older counterparts, with 83% of those ages 16 to 29 having read a book in the past year.  Overall, adults between the ages of 18 to 24 years had the highest reading rate compared to other age groups.

The data on library usage supports the value of their presence in communities as over half (56 percent) of Americans aged 16 years and older used the library sometime in the last year, and nearly 70 percent felt that the library was important to them and their families.  Youth ages 16 and 17 were the group most likely to have used the library (72 percent) – a finding that makes sense as school-age youth rely upon school or public libraries for research needs as well as recreational reading – while those over the age of  60 were least likely (49 percent).  Forty percent of Americans 16 and older used the library for research, while 36% borrowed books (of any medium).  One trend that continues from earlier Pew surveys is that the public is not aware of  the option to borrow e-books from their local library, only 19% knew this was possible.

This and other reports  in this topic series are available on the Pew Research Center’s website.