Can e-readers help save reading?

ebooks-v-booksOnlineUniversities.com has a post by Justin Marquis Ph.D. looking at the alarming trend of declining reading rates over the last few decades, and bringing up the recent Pew study showing that e-reader owners read more as a possible harbinger of ways to reduce the trend.

People who read more, Marquis points out, become more “interesting, engaged, and intellectual”. They have a higher degree of emotional as well as standard literacy, developing empathy through repeatedly putting themselves in the place of the characters they read about. Adolescents who don’t develop good reading habits are at a disadvantage in college where so much of learning is based on reading. And the more people who read individually, the more that greater society as a whole is more intellectually engaged.

The statistics show that literacy boosters may have their work cut out for them, however. The figures have been in steady decline over the last few decades. In 1978, only 8% of those surveyed had not read a single book in the last 12 months. In 2011, that figure was up to 19%—nearly 1 in every 5 people. And 13% of those surveyed in 1978 had read over 50 books in the last year, but only 5% in 2011.

I wonder how much e-book prices have to do with how much people read? They can buy more $2.99 books than $12.99 ones—and, for that matter, can also check out free e-books in libraries (when the publishers permit it). Would be interesting to do a study following the reading habits of Amazon customers, and how many cheap versus expensive e-books are bought and read. (Of course, Amazon already has access to that kind of information, but will they ever share it? No way, José!)

At any rate, I’d like to see more people reading, and people reading more. And if e-books can help accomplish that, then hey: go e-books!

3 Comments on Can e-readers help save reading?

  1. Brian / AnemicOak // May 22, 2012 at 9:31 am //

    Most people who I know that don’t read don’t do so because they have other things they’d rather do, not because of book prices. They’d rather watch TV or a movie, they’d rather play a video game or listen to music, they’d rather go fishing, boating, hiking, etc., they’d rather spend their time texting, tweeting or on Facebook. I know some folks who after having to read a ton of stuff in high school and college have never picked up a book again.

    Reading is competing with other activities more and more and a lot of those other activites have done a better job of keeping themselves in front of their target audiences and growing those audiences than publishers who often just put something out and hope someone will buy it. If/when I see ads and such for books it’s on blogs, in magazines, etc. that are for people who already read. Nothing is usually done to try and grow & engage with the potential audience base (maybe it’s just where I live?).

  2. MarylandBill // May 22, 2012 at 9:38 am //

    The big problem is, I think, too many distractions in the world today. People are use to getting media in chunks of no more than 10 minutes (For network TV programs) and increasingly even smaller chunks for online videos, games, etc. The notion of paying attention for 30 minutes to 2-hours for a decent reading session seems intimidating.

    I wonder also if poor book choices in school might be part of the problem. When I was growing up, I would say 90% of the stories held no interest for me. I didn’t become a reader until I had a teacher that made us do a book report a week… the key being that we got to choose the book.

  3. Technology has given readers a lot more choices. Hopefully, it will inspire more young to read but the most important choice remains choosing the right text to capture the interest of the reader.

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