Some 80% of Americans ages 16-29 have read a book in the past year, and 6 in 10 say they have used their local public library, but library attitudes among that age group are somewhat in flux, according to survey report released today by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, with younger readers reporting that they are reading more in an “era of digital content,” and increasingly on their mobile devices, suggesting “opportunities of further engagement with libraries” later in life.
The survey looks at an especially attractive segment of the reading population for both libraries and publishers, and how the e-book revolution is changing the reading landscape, and the buying—and borrowing—services of libraries. The findings are especially fascinating among the different age groups within the survey:
Among high schoolers (ages 16-17): Although this group is most likely to have used the library in the past year for school, they are less likely to say that “the library is important to them.” Just over half consider the library “very important” or “somewhat important” compared with roughly two-thirds of older Americans. At the same time, however, this age group is “significantly more likely” to say that they would be interested in checking out pre-loaded e-readers from their local public library if this service was offered, even though the survey revealed that high schoolers among the least likely age groups to have read an e-book in the past year.
Among college-aged adults (ages 18-24): This group has the highest overall reading rate of any age group, and overall, college-aged adults are more likely than high-schoolers to purchase their books—but they also borrow them from friends and family.
Among adults in their late twenties (ages 25-29): Although this segment is less likely to have read a book in the past year, and most likely to have purchased, rather than borrowed, that book, nearly three-quarters say that the library is important to them and their families.
Other major takeaways among Americans between the ages of 16 and 29:
60% reported using the library in the past year.
83% reported reading a book in the past year—with 75% saying they’ve read a print book; 19% reading e-book, and 11% listening to an audiobook.
Among e-book users, those under age 30 are more likely to read on a cell phone (41%) or a computer (55%) than on an e-book reader such as a Kindle (23%) or tablet (16%).
Readers under age 30 are more likely to say that they are reading more these days due to the availability of e-content (40% vs. 28%).
Meanwhile, as with the last Pew survey of older readers, younger readers are also generally unaware that they can borrow an e-book from their local library, a significant challenge going forward. Just 10% of the e-book readers in the 16-29 age 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.
The survey is the latest in an effort by Pew to divine Americans reading habits and library behavior in the digital age. The data was from nationally-representative phone surveys of 2,986 people ages 16 and older, administered from November 16-December 21, 2011. The report also contains “voices and insights” drawn from an online panel of library patrons ages 16-29 who borrow e-books, fielded in the spring of 2012.