Only Time Prevents More Reading

May 8, 2014

By Jack Loechner

According to the results of The Harris Poll adults surveyed online between March 12 and 17, 2014, the ways in which we can read books have undergone radical shifts over the past few years. Not long ago hardcover and paperback were the main options available to readers, but then e-readers hit the scene, followed by tablet computers. With the additional options of reading on the computer or phone these days, the only thing standing between Americans and a good read is setting aside the time. Americans seem to be embracing their broader options, as 54% currently read e-books, including 66% of Millennials.

When asked to consider any format, not just hardcovers and paperbacks, but electronic formats as well, a strong majority of Americans say they read at least one book in an average year, with 36% saying they read more than ten. On average, Americans report reading roughly 17 books per year. Looking at demographics, Baby Boomers and Matures (whose readerships average roughly 19 and 25 books per year, respectively) both read more in a typical year than Millennials. Women, meanwhile, read twice as many books as men. Americans who read more electronically read more, says the report.

There appears to be an intersection at work between how Americans read and how much they read. Those who read either more or exclusively in the e-book format are more likely to read over 20 books in an average year (30%) than either those who read more/only in hard copy (18%) or those who read in both formats equally (21%). They also report a higher average readership per year than either hard copy hardliners or equal-opportunity readers (22.5 books vs. 16 and 15, respectively).

65% of Americans purchased at least one book in the past year, 9% purchasing over 20 and an average of over 8 books purchased. Women also purchased more books in the last year, on average, than men (10 vs. 7, respectively). Those favoring e-books purchased roughly twice as many as those preferring hard copies, who purchased an average of less than seven.

In terms of overall users, the hard copy format is still king. 46% of Americans say they only read hard copy books, with an additional 16% saying they read more hard copy books than e-books. 17% read about the same number of hard copy and e-format books, while 15% read more and 6% read exclusively in the electronic format.

51% of Americans say they read the same amount in the past six months as they did before, while nearly a quarter read less in the past six months and 17% read more, says the report. Younger Americans often get blamed for declining readership nationally, but Millennials were more likely than their elders to have read more in the past six months.

Further reinforcing the interplay between reading format and overall readership, those who read either more or exclusively e-books are more likely to indicate reading more over the past six months than those preferring hard copies, or those who reading both formats equally concludes the report.


"Only Time Prevents More Reading." MediaPost, 2014.

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