The death of the book has been greatly exaggerated.
A Pew study has found that Americans are reading books in large numbers. Nearly three-fourths of Americans have read at least one book in the past year. The average number of books read in that period is 12.
E-books are growing in popularity, but they still lag behind print books. 28% of the public have read an e-book over the last year, but only 6% read e-books exclusively.
The share of Americans who have read a book in the last year is largely unchanged since 2012; more Americans read print books than either read e-books or listen to audio books
Following a slight overall decline in book readership between 2011 and 2012, the share of American adults who read books in any format has remained largely unchanged over the last four years. Some 73% of Americans report that they have read at least one book in the last year. That is nearly identical to the 74% who reported doing so in a survey conducted in 2012, although lower than the 79% who reported doing so in 2011.
Americans read an average (mean) of 12 books per year, while the typical (median) American has read 4 books in the last 12 months. Each of these figures is largely unchanged since 2011, when Pew Research Center first began conducting surveys of Americans’ book reading habits (for additional details on the number of books read per year by different demographic groups, see Appendix A).
Readers today can access books in several common digital formats, but print books remain substantially more popular than either e-books or audio books. Roughly two-thirds of Americans (65%) have read a print book in the last year, which is identical to the share of Americans who reported doing so in 2012 (although down slightly from the 71% who reported reading a print book in 2011).
By contrast, 28% of Americans have read an e-book – and 14% have listened to an audio book – in the last year. In addition to being less popular than print books overall, the share of Americans who read e-books or listen to audio books has remained fairly stable in recent years.
E-book readership increased by 11-percentage points between 2011 and 2014 (from 17% to 28%) but has seen no change in the last two years. Similarly, the share of American adults who listen to audio books has changed only marginally since Pew Research Center first asked about this topic in 2011 – at that point, 11% of Americans had listened to an audio book in the last year, compared with 14% now.
Nearly four-in-ten Americans read print books exclusively; just 6% are digital-only book readers
In total, 34% of Americans have either read an e-book or listened to an audio book in the last year, but relatively few Americans read books in these digital formats to the exclusion of print books.
More than one-quarter (28%) of Americans read books in both print and digital formats (which includes e-books and audio books). Some 38% read print books but did not read books in any digital formats, while just 6% read digital books but not print books.
Relatively few Americans are “digital-only” book readers regardless of their demographic characteristics.