Who reads books in America, and how?


Yeah, that is in fact a lot better than I would have guessed, too.


An entire book?

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It’s a lot higher than you’d think because the number is complete and utter bullshit. Someone misplaced the decimal point, maybe twice. I think this “survey” was taken in a research library on a Sunday night.

I love survey takers they are a bunch with a real since of humor.

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Considering the number of college educated professionals I work with that haven’t read a book in a decade, I’d say the number is high as well.

This figure includes Dan Brown novels and the like, and the metric is really lenient: 1 book in a whole year. That could mean one (roundtrip) cross country flight or beach vacation or anything.


I suppose we need to know something about the methodology. How was a sample selected and all that complicated stuff. Including, did they just ask people? If this is data that is self-reported, then there’s a possibility of “voting” or giving what is believed to be a favorable response for one’s socio-economic status.

As a life-long reader, and son of a librarian, who lives in a working-class neighborhood, and who is retired, I can self-report that I have never read an ebook, nor am I likely to. There are many excellent thrift stores with good reading available for a little looking around. From time to time a new book from our local book store is a treat.

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From the site:

“These findings come from a survey conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International between January 2-5, 2014. The survey was conducted among a nationally representative sample of 1,005 adults ages 18 and older living in the continental United States. Interviews were conducted by landline (500) and cell phone (505, including 268 without a landline phone), and were done in English and Spanish. Statistical results are weighted to correct known demographic discrepancies. The margin of error for the full sample is plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.”

They were asked, “During the past 12 months, about how many books did you read either all or part of the way through? Please include any print, electronic, or audiobooks you may have read or listened to.”

So an answer of “one” can mean “I read one book part of the way through.” That’s also assuming that this question is being answered honestly, without the respondent fearing the stigma of answering “none.”


So by the stats, the typical book reader is a wealthy urban black woman.

Yeah, I kind of buy that.

As for all the shock (shock!) that the number is so high: my experience in a bookstore leads me to believe that there’s a large number of people out there who read a lot of pretty goofy books. Steamy “urban” romance novels, supernatural sex-romps, books where elves totally fight orcs and are awesome in that 13-year-old way, whatever. Mediocre fiction that promises titiliation sells pretty well.

I’d like to also see a breakdown in fiction/non-fiction.

From TFA:

In other words, the mean (average) number of books read or listened to in the past year was 12 and the median (midpoint) number was 5 (meaning that half of adults read more than 5 books and half read fewer.) This mean can be skewed by a relatively small number of very avid readers, which is why the median is a better measure of what the “typical” American’s reading habits look like.

So by “survey” then mean “wild ass guess” with the condition that the “guess” is fantastically high and that by “book” they mean anything with two… maybe one word on it.

Meaning less survey unless you’re trying to sell advertising to someone who reads this “report”.

Does Cory read this stuff he posts on here anymore?

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I’m surprised that Audiobook age group is reversed of what I thought it would be, with the youngest people listening to the most and the oldest people listening to the least.

I’m thinking the lengthening commute times and more travel in the younger group accounts for that skew; and probably access to technology for free audio books are subscription services like Audible/Amazon etc.

If you consider that reading part of the Bible would qualify these numbers make a lot more sense.


Audiobooks are widely read by the elderly as they are hard of sight. My grandmother has gone through about thirty or forty last year, and probably won’t be with us much longer, but is on pace to do more this year.

She can’t really see the TV or read books anymore. Audiobooks and audio news are pretty much how she gets her news and entertainment.


I’ve see this with a lot of older relatives: there are even some pretty good services for this (providing devices, pickup and delivery, etc.) both in the US and the UK.

Also, yay young black women, bringing up America’s statistics!


The stat you mentioned didn’t really surprise me, but then I work for an ebook subscription service (Scribd) and talk to lifetime readers every day. Also, there’s likely a self-reporting bias. I know a thing or two about “aspirational” reading. Many people say they read the classics but, when it comes down it, can’t put down an engaging romance novel. There’s nothing wrong with that! Whatever makes you feel good and keeps you engaged. :smile:


I bet that 100% of the current Presidents of the United States have also read a book. By the stats, however, this doesn’t mean that the typical book reader is the POTUS.

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:slight_smile: I must make up for the gap left by some of the other responders. I tend to read 2 - 3 books per week, and average about 100 - 150 books per year. They tend to be a mix of technical, fiction, and science and history. I tend to avoid the fluffy stuff unless it’s summer time, or work is particularly grim. I also have a tendency to listen to audio books while doing the dishes. (btw. libraries are awesome).

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Why is everyone so horrified that so many people read a book last year? Is it too damaging to your sense of elitism to discover that you aren’t the few, the arrogant, the literate?