When it comes to reading habits, we've heard a lot of doom and gloom in recent years. Funding to public libraries is being cut, one in four Americans didn't read a single book in the last year, bookstore chains are in decline. But the truth is that Americans are actually reading much more than you might think. In fact, in a new study by Pew Research, Americans are actually reading, they're just doing it in different ways than the traditional hardcover or paperback format.
According to the research, Americans read a mean average of 12 books per year, and the typical (median) American has read four books in the past 12 months. And this has largely been the case since 2011, proving that Americans aren't dropping their reading habits. And since 2012, a total of 74 percent of Americans have read at least one book in the past 12 months — not exactly book worm levels, but much less scary than most stats would have us believe. So why are libraries and bookstores still coping with a lack of funding and closings that might have us believe books are the last thing Americans care about? It turns out that many readers are starting to spread their reading through different formats, including audiobooks.
According to Pew Research, there has been a moderate increase of Americans who listen to audiobooks, from 14 percent in 2016 to 18 percent in 2018. Which means that nearly one in five Americans now listen to audiobooks —with 29 percent of readers now reading some combination of both print and digital books, versus 39 percent who read only physical books. Though I'm no statistician, I would imagine that number will only grow closer in the years to come, with publishing houses investing more into their audiobook divisions, and readers embracing the format more than ever.
The latest research only confirms what a lot of us have already figured out: we need to change our ideas about what the act of reading really looks like, and embrace people's changing lifestyles and concerns when it comes to what we feel an "appropriate" amount of reading is. Whether you use the library every week, head to the bookstore for every new release, or depend entirely on audiobooks to see you through your lengthy commutes and workouts, the important part of reading is absorbing new stories, and opening yourself up to new ideas. Let's just keep reading, however we choose to do it.