If you haven’t had a chance to look it over just yet, here’s the link (PDF) to the Pew Research Center’s recently-released study on the reading and library usage habits of young Americans.

If you’re simply looking for the study’s bottom line—the take-away, as it were—I’d suggest reading this brief A.P. item, which leads with the discovery that “there’s a generation gap among ebook fans,” and that while “readers under 30 prefer cell phones and computers, those over 30 like dedicated devices such as the Kindle.”

The survey, titled Young Americans’ Reading and Library Habits, has already received a decent amount of press attention, but as far as I can tell, Paid Content has so far been the only outlet to point out that the survey’s data is “nearly a year old.”

According to the study itself, “The main findings in this report … are from a nationally representative phone survey of 2,986 people ages 16 and older that was administered from November 16-December 21, 2011.” However, the survey does go on to say that “this report also contains the voices and insight of an online panel of library patrons  ages 16-29 who borrow e-books, fielded in the spring of 2012.”

Here’s a brief roundup of some of the report’s main findings:

♦ 83% of Americans between the ages of 16 and 29 read a book in the past year. Some 75% read
a print book, 19% read an e-book, and 11% listened to an audiobook.

♦ Among Americans who read e-books, those under age 30 are more likely to read their e-books
on a cell phone (41%) or computer (55%) than on an e-book reader such as a Kindle (23%) or
tablet (16%).

♦ Overall, 47% of younger Americans read long-form e-content such as books, magazines or
newspapers. E-content readers under age 30 are more likely than older e-content readers to say
that they are reading more these days due to the availability of e-content (40% vs. 28%).

♦ 60% of Americans under age 30 used the library in the past year. Some 46% used the library for
research, 38% borrowed books (print books, audiobooks, or e-books), and 23% borrowed
newspapers, magazines, or journals.

♦ Many of these young readers do not know they can borrow an e-book from a library, and a
majority of them express the wish they could do so on pre-loaded e-readers. Some 10% of the
e-book readers in this group have borrowed an e-book from a library and, among those who
have not borrowed an e-book, 52% said they were unaware they could do so. Some 58% of
those under age 30 who do not currently borrow e-books from libraries say they would be
“very” or “somewhat” likely to borrow pre-loaded e-readers if their library offered that service.


  1. @Markus – No, I really don’t think that’s the case at all. In fact, on the contrary, people under 30 tend to have larger disposable incomes, partly due to the fact that they’re less likely to have kids, mortgages, etc. And of course, most people—regardless of age—spend more than the cost of a cheap e-reader on their smartphone bills each month! (A basic Kindle is only $69.)

  2. Younger people do everything on the phone. But I look upon the phone as a gateway drug for an e-reader. After many years of trying to get my 21-year-old daughter to read, I finally got her to put a Kindle app on her phone and sent her a book she was interested in. After she quickly read it, I showed her others on our Amazon account she’d like. After a few weeks of this, she asked if she could borrow one of our Kindles because she was tired of reading on a phone. I doubt she’ll go back. Another soul claimed for e-readers.

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