Do People Still Read Books?


Do people still read books? Yes, research shows that people do in fact still read books. However, what has changed, is how we consume them. According to a recent survey, 65% of Americans still prefer to read print books. E-books also remain a popular platform at 25%. And audiobooks are on the rise from 14% in 2016 to 20% in 2019.

Are you surprised?

I know I’m not. I love reading books and although not on the avid level, I do average about 20 To 22 books per year. Between my collection of physical books and my audiobooks, I probably own close to 400.


Today, in 2019 and 2020, it is safe to say that people continue to read books and that most people still prefer the good ol’ version of print books versus the digital format.

I will say this…

I do believe it’s just a matter of time for these numbers to start inverting. I continually find myself listening to more and more audiobooks and reading e-books on my iPad, than actually reading my physical books. A sad thing.


Let’s back up a bit and talk about ebooks

A digital drawing of a person laying down reading a book The first e-reader (or e-book) was introduced to the market in 1998, and it seemed like the beginning of the end for the printed page. In fact, the rise of new tech and social media was all supposed to spell death for the traditional print book market.

Nope, didn’t happen!

As I mentioned above, studies have shown that more readers prefer print. And paper books are just as popular as ever.

But how?… Can you smell that?

Well, one thing e-readers are far from replicating, is the smell of a new book. The screen can in many cases stimulate the actual look of a printed paper. Its case and ergonomics can almost make the user feel like they are holding a real book. Sound effects can nearly replicate the sound of turning over a page.

But the smell? No way.

Still, e-readers bring plenty of compelling advantages over their print counterparts. They let you carry a library of books in your pocket, and e-books are overall cheaper than printed books.

Physical books, in a digital world, are just not as practical (anymore).

What does the research say?

A digital drawing of a guy holding several books in his arms

So again, even with their inherent downside, e-books and audiobooks have not been able to overtake physical books as the preferred method of reading.

A recent study by the Pew Research Center showed that print books have continued to be more popular than ebooks and audiobooks. The study also showed that book readership has been relatively steady since 2016.

In 2019, 72% of U.S. adults said that they’ve read a book within the past one year. While this number accounts for all book formats, it’s still good to learn that almost three-quarters of the country still read books. A closer look at the results (as mentioned before) reveals that 65% said they’ve read a printed book in the last (one) year, with 37% of those saying they only read print books and no other format.

Comparing this to the 28% who read in both print and digital formats, and the mere 7% who only read books in the digital format (haven’t read print books in over a year), it’s quite obvious that print books are far from dead. Nonetheless, it’s worth noting that the readership of physical books hasn’t changed much from past Pew’s studies since 2012.

But for audiobooks and ebooks, the readership has been increasing steadily since 2011. The popularity of audiobooks has risen from 14% in 2016 to 18% in 2019.

How many books does the average person read in a year?

A digital drawing of a lady holding and reading a book with her left hand

12 books. On average, Americans read 12 books each year, while the typical U.S. resident has read only 4 books in the last 12 months. These numbers are largely unchanged since 2011, which was the year Pew started studying the book reading habits of Americans. Demographic differences in book readership are interesting to note.

Adults who hold a bachelor’s or advanced degree are more likely to be avid readers compared to those who’ve only attended high school, college, or those with less than a high school education. Adults between the ages of 18 to 29 are also more likely to be readers compared to those over the age of 65 years.

In case you’re wondering, women are the most avid book readers in America, on average, according to a 2014 study. Women just tend to read more than men. The typical characteristics of the most avid reader in the U.S., according to the study, is a white woman (non-Hispanic) with a college education, who is 18 to 29 years of age, lives in a city and has an income of over $75,000. Such a woman will have read 7 books within the period covered by the study.

Do Millennials read books?

A digital drawing of a young woman sitting down with her knees up holding and reading a book

Millennials in the United States are among the largest generation in history and have mostly grown up in a time of rapid technological advancement and change. This has given them access to lots of digital technology, subsequently creating a notable characteristic among them – the tendency to become attached to their gadgets.

But does this digital generation ever take time from their busy lives to read a book? Is reading for leisure really a thing among millennials?

Let’s take a look.

Books have largely been a dominant source of entertainment from generation to generation, especially during periods where other kinds of entertainment such as music concerts, banquets, and art performances were highly priced or simply unavailable.

The concept of reading, offers its own form of entertainment and excitement for the readers, and has not only grown in terms of learning, but also as a means of escaping reality and enjoying a holiday in one’s own imagination.

Nonetheless, the recent technological advancements have brought cheaper, easier, and even free entertainment sources. Nowadays, nearly everyone has free access to pictures, videos, music, and games on the internet, all of which are available anytime, anywhere.

So, it comes as quite a remarkable surprise that there’s still a high number of millennials who enjoy reading.

A drawing of a person sitting down reading a book and holding it close to their face with both hands

Modern technology has actually introduced new ways for people to read, with many books being available as ebooks and audiobooks. And while a vast majority of millennials still stick to reading the traditional print books, the number of devices used to access ebooks and audiobooks is also increasing.

This acknowledges that the renowned role of books has not changed and that Millenials do indeed still read books. This means that while it’s unavoidable that the forms in which books are available will continue to experience modifications, it doesn’t make the millennial generation less engaged with reading than previous ones.

Books allow for a sense of freedom, where one can escape the real world and dive into their own mind, thoughts, feelings, and imagination, allowing one to release stress. It can encourage and create a unique self-learning experience. This will never change.

Books have always been a resource for knowledge, learning, and deepening one’s understanding of a particular subject, and Millennials are more likely to read when researching a topic, compared to older generations.

Which country read the most books?

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any recent studies to answer this question with certainty. But the world atlas website mentioned a global study conducted by the World Culture Score Index, and India seems to spend the most time reading.

A drawing of a person standing up reading a book and holding it with their left arm

The result is based on a global study aimed at measuring the amount of time people around the world spend reading on a weekly basis. The findings of the study are as follows:

  1. India – Indian citizens reported spending an average of 10 hours and 42 minutes a week on reading. Attaining the first position globally is a huge fete for India, considering that its literacy rate is lower than the global average of 74%.
  2. Thailand – Coming in at a close second is Thailand, where survey respondents reported they spend 9 hours and 24 minutes a week on average reading. Additional surveys also found out that about 88% of the population read their books in print form, spending around 28 minutes on average a day reading them.
  3. China – This is the third country on the list, where the survey respondents report spending a weekly average of 8 hours reading. Of this time, only a daily average of 11 minutes is spent reading magazines and newspapers.

Who reads books anymore? Millionaires and the average CEO do!

One common thing about millionaires and billionaires is that they habitually read a lot. That’s right, millionaires and billionaires still read books! So as long as we have them (and we now have more millionaires than any other time in history), it’s safe to say that people will continue to read books. The format may change, but people will still read books.

In fact, when Warren Buffet, a famous billionaire investor, was asked about what he’d say the key to success is, he pointed to a stack of books and said, “Read 500 pages like that every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up like compound interest.” He’s not alone on this, top business leaders and entrepreneurs make reading a major part of their daily lifestyle. Bill Gates is famously known to read over 50 books a year.

Elon Musk, one of the most inspirational entrepreneurs, says he read an average of 10 hours a day while he was in grade school. When he was asked how he learned about building rockets and where he manages to get ideas from, he said. “I read books”. The same habit can be found in other successful people such as Mark Cuban, Warren Buffet, Oprah Winfrey, Mark Zuckerberg, Anthony Robbins, and more.

According to Tom Corley, the Author of “Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals”, when it comes to reading, rich and poor people have a key difference; the less successful people read for entertainment, while the rich read for self-improvement. In his research, he breaks down the numbers as follows:

• 11% of the rich read for entertainment, compared to 79% of the poor

• 85% of the rich people read two or more educative, self-improvement, or career-related books per month, compared to 15% of the less successful

• 88% of millionaires will read at least 30 minutes a day, while 63% listen to audiobooks during their commutes to and from work

• 95% of millionaires read news publications including blogs and newspapers, compared to 11% of the less successful people

In general, the rich people are voracious readers, especially when it comes to self-improvement. They are continually reading biographies, self-improvement books, books about successful people, and similar content.

While there are many examples of successful people who dropped out of school and some even foregoing a formal education, it’s quite clear that they never stop learning. And reading is a key part of their success.

Are audiobooks on the rise?

While our main question here is “do people still read books?” it’s great to learn about other mediums of reading. According to a new research and survey report from Edison Research, over 50% of all Americans over the age of 12 have listened to an audiobook in the last one year. This is in increase from 44% in 2018. This further penetration can be attributed to more and more users listening to audiobooks in cars. The new reports points that 74% of the audiobook consumers listen in their cars, which is up from 69% in 2018.

Home listening is the second most popular way of listening to audiobooks, with 68% of the participants asserting that they listen to their audiobooks at home, which is down from 71% in 2018. The study also revealed that 42% of the total audiobook listeners were above the age of 18, and own a smart speaker. Out of these, over 30% are using these smart speakers (e.g. Google Home or Alexa device) to listen to their audiobooks.

Audiobooks listeners on average consumed 6.8 audiobooks in the past year, which is up from 6.5 in 2018. 24% of the listeners have listened to 10 or more audiobooks in the same period. 56% of the listeners also said that they were making more time for audiobook listening in their lives. Thriller, mystery, and suspense titles are still the most popular genres for audiobook listeners, followed by history, memoirs, biography, and humor.

The new data proves that audiobooks are increasingly becoming mainstream, and much of the growth is coming from people using technology to create more time in their busy schedules to consume more books.

Is listening to audiobooks as good as reading?

At this point, you’re probably wondering whether listening to an audio version of a book is as good as sitting down and reading a physical book. Well, to some hardcore book nerds, audiobooks can be considered cheating. However, new evidence suggests that our brains interpret reading and hearing a story as one and the same thing.

In a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers scanned the brains of nine participants while they listened and read to a series of tales from “The Moth Radio Hour”. They analyzed how each word was processed in the brain, created maps of the participants’ brains, and noted how different areas helped to interpret each word.

Looking at the data analysis, the researchers discovered that the stories stimulated the same emotional and cognitive areas, no matter the medium. In other words, words tend to activate the same regions of the brain with the same level of intensity, no matter the input. This adds to the current understanding of how the brain gives semantic meaning to the bursts of sounds and letters that make up human communication.

So, if you prefer listening to audiobooks you’re not really cheating. In other words, you’re not losing or risking actual learning. You’re just working smart, not hard!

Does reading make you smarter or more intelligent?

Time and again, reading has been shown to make us smarter, healthier, and even more empathetic towards each other. In one research that studied 72 children between the ages of 8 and 10, the researchers found out that reading helps to create new white matter in the brain, which ideally improves system wide communication.

White matter is the substance that transmits information between regions of grey matter, where any kind of information is processed. Reading does not only increase the white matter content, but also helps the information to be processed a lot more efficiently.

While reading in one language has a number of benefits, adding a foreign language improves communication skills, and also makes you able to talk to more people in wider circles. Adding a foreign language will also increase the size of the areas of your brain involved in learning new information and spatial navigation.

In another fascinating aspects of neuroscience, language has been shown to affects the regions of the brain that involve actions related to what you’re reading about. For instance, if you’re reading about lavender and soap, the parts of your brain that are implicated in scents are activated, and will remain silent when you read “chair”.

Ultimately, it’s important not to think of reading in terms of whether it will improve your intelligence, but in terms of how it will change the way your brain works. While reading might not be able to modify your baseline abilities, it can increase the kind of facts you know, make you better at identifying patterns, make your neurological connections more pervasive, and even increase your empathy.

Reading will yield a significant dividend to everyone, not just the smart people. And while it might be far away from being the magic pill to increase intelligence, it will make a difference for anyone who picks up a book.

Is it bad to read multiple books at a time?

Just as there is no one right kind of reader or one kind of right book, there’s no right way to read. There are people who prefer reading the good old-fashioned paper novels, while others like to listen to ebooks and skim through ebooks. Anyway, no matter what form you prefer, you should consider reading more than one book at a time.

While it might sound a bit intimidating or even dauting for the newbie, reading several titles at once could have some incredible benefits.

For instance:

Get through your “To Be Read” titles faster

While it might seem contradictory in so many ways, reading more that one book at once will help you read through your TBR pile a lot faster than taking one at a time. Why? Well, mainly because you can break away from any title that’s slowing you down and instead find something more enjoyable, easier, and faster to read. Plus, the challenging title will still be waiting for you once you’ve finished something else.

Strike a balance between leisure reading and “required” reading

Whether you need to read a book for work, school, or book club, having a required reading title can actually interfere with your plans for leisure reading. This is the case unless you are reading multiple books. When you read your required titles at the same time as your leisure titles, you will be able to get through your TBR list while enjoying the true pleasure of reading.

Allows you to enjoy all the benefits that come from reading

Whether it’s for pleasure or education purposes, stress relief, work, entertainment, or just fun, we all read for different reasons, and the books we choose reflect that. When you need a pick-me-up after a long week, humorous essays and lighthearted fiction might just be the break you need. If you want to be taken to another world, sci-fi and historical fiction are your right ticket there. If you want to have a sense of inspiration and motivated, informative nonfiction and empowering memoirs are great cheerleaders.

If you want it all? Well, you can read it all at the same time, as there really no rules that say you need to only enjoy one book at a go. When you read multiple kinds of titles at once, you enjoy their benefits at the same time.

Why Should We Read Books?

Even if you’ve only read one book in your life, you know what reading gives; an incomparable pleasure. And whether reading is a new resolution or you’re just curious why we should all engage in this great activity, here are some of the key reasons why we should read books.

Reading provides us with new ideas and skills

Ever solved a case in a mystery book before reading the conclusion or predicted the turn of events in a fictional novel? Well, no matter how right you were, your analytical thinking skills were stimulated merely by reading. Reading helps you become better at identifying patterns, solving problems, and assimilating new information.

It’s good for your brain

By staying mentally stimulated, reading is a good way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. This is because keeping your brain active and engaged prevents it from deteriorating. Keep in mind that the brain is a muscle like any other, and exercising it keeps it strong and healthy.

Acquiring new knowledge

One of the key reasons why people read is to gain knowledge, and books are a rich source of that. Reading varied subjects will impart you with new information, and will increase your depth about the topic as well.

Challenging your Imagination

As you read, you tend to put yourself in the shoes of the character. The brain goes beyond the words on the page and starts imagining details such as the emotions, appearances, and the surrounding. Perhaps that’s why they say “you live several lives while reading”.