Pew Research Center Publishes Latest Findings for American Book Reading 2016

Reading” by Katy Tressedder

The latest report from Pew Research Center is available for download. The most interesting observation is not that print is still the preferred format but rather how our relationship with reading ebooks has changed. Following are just a few highlights from the report.


Book Reading 2016 gathers data and findings from a survey conducted March 7 to April 4, 2016, among a national sample of 1,520 adults, 18 years of age or older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. Fully 381 respondents were interviewed on a landline telephone, and 1,139 were interviewed on a cellphone, including 636 who had no landline telephone. The survey was conducted by interviewers at Princeton Data Source under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates International.

Print Rules

For the most part, the percentage of Americans who have read a book in the past 12 months has not changed since 2012---73%. When we go to read a book, the majority of us reach for the printed product (65%). That's more than double the number who have read an ebook (28%) and more than four times more than those who have listened to an audio book (14%).


But Don't Rule Out eBooks

The survey certainly illustrates that print is the preferred format but that's not to say ebooks should be viewed as a sub par format. There has been an important shift publishers should understand about American's relationship with ebooks over the past 5 years. Multipurpose devices (smart phones, tablet computers) rather than dedicated e-reading devices, are used more often to access digital content:


The share of e-book readers on tablets has more than tripled since 2011 and the number of readers on phones has more than doubled over that time, while the share reading on e-book reading devices has not changed. And smartphones are playing an especially prominent role in the e-reading habits of certain demographic groups, such as non-whites and those who have not attended college.
— Pew Research Center, Book Reading 2016

Between 2011 and 2016 some interesting ways in which we read have occurred:

  • Reading on tablets: increased nearly fourfold (from 4% to 15%)
  • Reading on smartphones: more than doubled (from 5% to 13%)
  • Reading on desktop or laptop computers: a modest increase (from 7% to 11%)

College Grads Want it Both Ways

Certain demographics are likely to read more and read both formats---print and digital. College graduates, compared with those who never attended college, are more likely to read print books and more likely to consume ebooks.


College graduates are roughly four times as likely to read e-books ­ and about twice as likely to read print books and audio books – compared with those who have not graduated high school
— Pew Research Center, Book Reading 2016

Download the Report

The full report is available here. More metrics, findings, and graphs are available that will be interesting to all publishers.


Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. It conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis and other empirical social science research. Pew Research Center does not take policy positions. It is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts.


Mike Groth

Michael Groth is Director of Marketing at Cenveo Publisher Services, where he oversees all aspects of marketing strategy and implementation across digital, social, conference, advertising and PR channels. Mike has spent over 20 years in marketing for scholarly publishing, previously at Emerald, Ingenta, Publishers Communication Group, the New England Journal of Medicine and Wolters Kluwer. He has made the rounds at information industry events, organized conference sessions, presented at SSP, ALA, ER&L and Charleston, and blogged on topics ranging from market trends, library budgets and research impact, to emerging markets and online communities.. Twitter Handle: @mikegroth72