Americans Rediscovering The Joys Of Reading – Thanks To Ereaders;

A couple of recent studies in the USA have shown some very encouraging trends in reading there, especially among the young.  And this improvement seems to be linked directly to the advent of ereaders and ebooks.

Most Americans did not really read at all:

About a year ago, I remember reading an article about reading habits in the USA, in which a “reader” was defined as someone who read at least (!) 5 books a year.  Not surprisingly, this figure depressed me no end.  If a country considered that 5 books a year constituted being a reader, then something was seriously wrong in that place. What made it worse was that the Bible was one of the 5 books they read, and very few people actually “read” the Bible, they dip into it, study it, but do not sit down of an evening and read it from start to finish.   And read over and over again, unlike most novels. It is a reference book in fact.

In my view, that figure almost constituted functional illiteracy.  A reader is someone who reads books more or less constantly, and would certainly mean someone who read 5 books in a month, not less than one book a month, as was apparently the case in the USA so recently.

However, things are getting better:

In a recent survey, the authors of a study of reading habits among American Middle School kids (link below), it was found that these kids now actually enjoyed reading, and had begun to read in a serious and happy way, particularly boys.  And the cause of this change?  It is simply that they had started to use ereaders to read their books on, and apparently felt that it was “cool” to be seen with their noses deep in a Kindle, Nook or whatever ereader they happened to have- Paper books one gathers are not “cool”, sadly.

Reinforcing this reason was the finding that girls of the same age, did not particularly enjoy reading with ereaders, but used them simply because they had to.  But girls in their early teens tend not to be as gadget fixated as their male peers I have observed.

General increase in reading:

Other studies have shown that this increase in reading is not limited to Middle School kids however; there is a sort of parallel upwards trend in reading that follows the upward sales figures of ereader in the USA.  So without going into the huge mountain of statistics that are available now (see below for some links), the arrival of the ereader, particularly the Kindle, has encouraged a real renaissance in reading in the USA, and I am pretty sure that the same would be found in any other country where the ereader has made any sort of sales impact.

Ereaders encourage reading:

It is a simple and easily observed phenomenon that ereaders do encourage people to read much more than they used to.

I suspect that for most people (outside the school situation) who find themselves the proud owner of an ereader, and then discover the ease of getting ebooks to bung into their ereaders it is precisely this ease and convenience that characterise ereader that has done the trick.

To make this point.  I am sitting here in Cebu City in the Philippines, in a café, and have just finished reading an ebook on my Kindle and had no other unread ebook in it, surprisingly.  Now, if it had been a normal paper book, I would have had to get up out of my comfortable chair, gone and hunted up a book store (which here would have meant going to a shopping mall about 30 minutes Jeepney ride away) and then spent time looking for a new book to read, and paid quite a lot of money to buy it too.  But, as I have a Kindle, I simply connected it to the net, logged on to the Kindle store, found a free ebook that looked interesting in 5 minutes,  downloaded it, and was ready to start reading my new ebook in a matter of minutes.

This is why people enjoy using ereaders!

For your amusement and interest:

According to a new study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project at the Pew Research Center, 21% of Americans have read an E-book and those who read e-books read more.

Further intriguing statistics:

– Pre-holiday, 17% of Americans had read an e-book. Post-holiday, that number jumped to 21%

– 30% of those who read e-content spend more time reading

– Four times as many people are reading e-books on a given day versus two years ago

– E-reader and tablet owners are avid readers in all formats

– 42% of e-book readers consume their books on a computer

– 41% of e-book readers use an e-book reader like original Kindles or Nooks

– 29% of e-book readers read books on their cell phones

– 23% of e-book readers read books on a tablet computer

Another intriguing set of figures are the ones that show the spread of ebook reading over ethnic groups age and gender within the USA.  Here is a table from that report:

I shall be returning to this topic over the next few days, as the growth of ebooks and ereaders in Libraries in the USA has also thrown up some interesting facts and figures, and given rise to a lot of speculation on the part of Librarians all over the world.

Conclusion:

I am vastly encouraged by the findings of these reports – and many others – which show clearly that the advent of the ereader has been a totally positive development for the encouragement of literacy, and the sheer pleasure that reading can and should give us.  It is rare for a device to come along that is completely positive, and in no way damaging or dangerous to us.  I can think of no negative aspects to the simple dedicated ereader.  The same can’t be said of tablets, smartphones computers or devices such as the iPad, as they can not only be used for good purposes, but also some extremely undesirable purposes too.

The only undesirable use of an ereader that I can think of is to hit someone over the head with one….

Links:

“Reluctant Readers in Middle School: Successful Engagement with Test Using the E-Reader”

http://libraries.pewinternet.org/2012/04/04/the-rise-of-e-reading/

Share with us:

What are your views on the rise in reading that seems to have been caused by the popularity of ereaders?   Do let us know your thoughts here on this intriguing subject.

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