A new report by the Pew Research Center has provided more documentation on the growing popularity of audiobooks.
In a survey of 1,502 American adults conducted from January 8 to February 7 this year, Pew found that 20% of adults listened to an audiobook in the 12 months prior to the period in which the survey was conducted. In 2011, only 11% of adults said they listened to an audiobook.
The strongest gains have come since 2016—the dawning of the digital audiobooks age. The percentage of adults listening to audiobooks rose six percentage points between 2016 and the 2019 survey, after rising only three percentage points between 2011 and 2016. According to Pew, since 2018, college students and adults with household incomes over $75,000 are the two groups who have adopted listening to audiobooks the quickest.
The Pew survey also found that while listening to audiobooks has risen steadily since the 2016 survey, reading e-books had declined. Twenty-eight percent of adults reported reading an e-book in 2016—double the number who listen to audiobooks that year. By the most recent survey, e-books had only a 5% edge over audiobook usage.
Overall, the Pew survey found a gradual reduction in the percentage of Americans who are reading. In 2011, 79% of those surveyed said they had read a book in the previous 12 months, a number that fell to 72% in early 2019. Print remained by far the book format of choice, with 65% or adults surveyed reporting that had read a print book within the last year, down from 71% in 2011.
The percentage of adult who read a book in any format fell from 79% in 2011 to 72% in 2019.