Reading habits in the U.S. - Statistics & Facts

Watching television undoubtedly remains the pastime of choice for Americans, while more traditional forms of entertainment such as reading books or magazines seem to be on the decline. Americans aged 20 to 24 spent a mere seven minutes daily reading, while consumers aged between 35 to 44 years spent nine minutes reading during an average weekday and 12 minutes doing so during weekends or holidays. Although the time spent reading increases in the older generations, the general trend is worrying – an average of 19 minutes daily spent reading during the week and 21 minutes at weekends.

One of the main reasons that people read is for pleasure. During a recent survey, 98 percent of respondents stated that they read for pleasure, whilst a further 29 percent read to keep up with current events. The most common form of regular reading materials were novels/fiction books, whilst non-fiction books and newspapers also remain popular. In contrast, only 11 percent of respondents to the survey in 2017 stated that they read poetry on a regular basis.

Despite the worrying decline of reading in general, it seems that there are still many avid readers in the United States. A 2017 survey showed that 41 percent of consumers read more than 15 books per year, and further 20 percent read up to 10 books. When asked where they find their new books, 61 percent stated that they are recommended books by their friends and relatives, and the same percentage used the traditional method of finding books in a store. Indeed, independent book retailers seem to be experiencing a boom in recent years, with the number of independent companies rising from 1,410 in 2010 to 1,757 in 2017. In the same time frame, the number of independent bookstores has risen from 1,660 to 2,321.

One of the main ways reading habits in the U.S. have changed is the way in which Americans access news. In the age of the internet and instant news alerts, gone are the days when people have to consult their daily print newspaper to read what is going on in the world. As a result, the average number of readers of any daily newspaper has drastically declined from over 105 million in 2008 to 66.7 million in 2016. Those who do read newspaper media, however, remain loyal to print, with 51 percent reading print only, in comparison to five percent who access newspaper media only on the internet.

Magazines have gone a similar way to newspapers as their popularity is waning in the digital age. During a recent survey, 23 percent of online consumers stated that they had never read a magazine, whilst only five percent stated that they read print magazines daily. In 2010, Americans spent an average of 24 minutes reading magazines daily, a figure which is forecast to decrease to 15 minutes by 2018. In contrast, the reach of digital magazines is on the up, with 42 percent of Americans accessing them monthly in 2016.

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