E-book revolution: We're reading more than ever

A study by the Pew Internet Project finds that consumers who use e-readers are buying more books.

Brian Snyder/Reuters
Readers of e-books read an average of 10 books more per year than readers of print books, according to a new study by the Pew Internet Project.

If you read an e-book in the past year – or suspected your holiday gift of an e-reader has led you to read more – you’re not alone.

Some 21 percent of adults have read an e-book in the past year, according to a new study by the Pew Internet Project. What’s more, readers of e-books read an average of 10 books more per year than readers of print books.

According to the Pew report, the average reader of e-books had read an average of 24 books in the past 12 months compared to 15 books for non e-book consumers.

In effect, the digital revolution really is transforming our reading habits and the publishing industry as a whole – and this is just the beginning.

“Every institution connected to the creation of knowledge and storytelling is experiencing a revolution in the way information is packaged and disseminated,” said Lee Rainie, one of the authors of the Pew Internet Project report, in a statement. “It’s now clear that readers are embracing a new format for books and a significant number are reading more because books can be plucked out of the air.”

In fact, some 30 percent of those who read e-content say they spend more time reading, a figure many e-reader owners can attest to. (Of course, you don’t need an e-reader like a Nook or Kindle, to read e-content. According to the study, among those who reported reading an e-book in the past 12 months, 42 percent had read it on a computer, 41 percent on an e-reading device, 29 percent on a cell phone, and 23 percent on a tablet computer.) 

And good news for publishers: e-readers also buy more. Those who own e-book reading devices not only read more books, but prefer to buy, rather than borrow, books. (That explains why Amazon is selling Kindles like hotcakes, at a loss – to sell more content.) 

As bibliophiles, we have to admit we were relieved to learn that the e-reading revolution hasn’t left print books, those lovely bastions of literature, in the dust. Those who read e-books are not abandoning print books. On the contrary, some 88 percent of those who read e-books in the past year also read print books, according to the Pew report.

Print books continue to have a place in our hearts (How do you stock your shelves with e-books?), and we’re not alone. In a head-to-head competition, people prefer e-books to printed books when they want speedy access and portability, but print wins out when people are reading to children and sharing books with others.

“E-book readers and tablet computers are finding their place in the rhythms of readers’ lives,” said Kathryn Zickuhr, an author of the Pew report, in a statement. “But printed books still serve as the physical currency when people want to share the stories they love.”

We’re glad there’s room for both.

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

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