"Reading is here to stay, but how we are doing it is changing"

AN NPD Group survey reports that “nearly three out of four consumers in the U.S. reported reading a book or listening to an audiobook in the past six months.”

According to the survey, traditional print remains the most popular medium, with “more than half of respondents reported reading a print book in the past six months, while only one-quarter read an electronic book (e-book). This is consistent with NPD point-of-sale tracking, where the print book market makes up 81 percent of the overall market, up from 72 percent in 2013.”

Not surprisingly, print is especially preferred for books for the very young: “Parents value the lap time print books offer, which is a wonderful way for parents to bond with their children and foster a love of reading early on. They also view print books as an offset to screen time, in our increasingly connected world.”

Audiobook use is growing: “adults between the ages of 18 and 44, a key consumer demographic for marketers, are listening to audiobooks the most. ‘Audiobook listeners are also most likely to engage with all forms of book activity, making them valuable consumers when it comes to content and purchasing power,’ McLean said. ‘They practice equal-opportunity literacy, not only listening to audiobooks, but also reading print books, magazines, and graphic novels.’.”

Not all the news is good: “books are facing stiff competition for consumer attention from other entertainment activities . . . . survey respondents reported reading roughly 9 percent less this year than they did last year overall, with the steepest drop off reported for readers between the ages of 45 and 54.”

The results won’t be a surprise for librarians. They match trends in library use: for most libraries, print circulation is dropping or at best remaining flat (though most libraries are not seeing 9% declines), while digital use continues to grow but not enough to overcome the decrease in print circ. The results do, however, underscore the continued need for enhancing the library digital content experience. The survey suggests that the trends we see are part of a larger social trend. Digital content will be increasingly important, and libraries will need to advocate for the continued importance of reading as other entertainment and information forms grow in popularity.