Despite an explosion of media choices, the time consumers spend reading books each year increased by one hour in 2006, to 108 hours, according to the 21st edition of the Veronis Suhler Stevenson Communications Industry Forecast. The yearly report on media usage, spending and trends found that the increased use of the Internet and other digital alternatives actually freed up consumers’ time to spend with other media if they choose. “While new technology has allowed consumers to use other media more efficiently, a relatively strong adult trade market led to an increase in the time spent with books in 2006, the first increase since 2002,” said Patrick Quinn, CEO of PQ Media, which partners with VSS, an investment banking and private equity firm, on the Forecast.

As an example, Quinn noted that consumers who read newspapers online tend to read only a few articles, spending less time with newspapers than people who usually read—or scan—the entire print paper. Because of increased efficiency, the average consumer’s time spent with media fell for the first time in 10 years in 2006, dropping 0.5%, to 3,530 hours. Time spent with media is expected to inch up 0.1% next year, while time spent reading is projected to remain at 108 hours.

With an extra hour devoted to reading, consumers spent $21.91 billion on books in 2006, a 3% increase over 2005. The greatest growth came in spending on used books; the study forecasts a similar trend in 2007. Spending on all consumer books is projected to rise 4.9% in 2007, to just under $23 billion. Spending on used books is estimated to increase by 22.5% this year, while spending on new books is projected to increase 4% and spending on digital materials (e-books, audio downloads) will rise 33.3%.

2004 2005 2006 2007
Source: Veronis Suhler Stevenson Consumer Industry Forecast.
Books 108 107 108 108
All TV 1,620 1,659 1,673 1,686
Internet 164 169 177 181
Recorded Music 196 196 186 171
Magazines 125 124 121 119
Total 3,530 3,548 3,530 3,532