Millennials: a rising generation of booklovers

Death of reading? Not so fast. The millennial generation is more likely to read and use their local library than their parents.

Ronen Zvulen/Reuters
A Pew study found that 60 percent of Americans under 30 used a library in the past year.

Think the only reading your Facebook-updating, Twitter-posting, Google-addicted Millennial is doing is skimming 140-character-or-less Tweets?

Think again.

Not only is the Facebook generation reading and visiting their local library, they’re actually more likely to read and more likely to use their local library.

Yup, that’s right – 18 to 29-year-olds are actually reading a whole lot more than tweets, and more than other adults. Some 8 in 10 Americans under the age of 30 have read a book in the past year, compared to about 7 in 10 adults in general.

That unexpected good news comes courtesy of the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project which conducted a study examining the role of books, libraries, and technology in the lives of young readers ages 16 to 29.

“A lot of people think that young people aren’t reading, they aren’t using libraries,” Kathryn Zickuhr, a research analyst with Pew told the New York Times. “That they’re just turning to Google for everything.”

Pew’s findings, it turns out, have proved that notion wrong.

• 83 percent of Americans between the ages of 16 and 29 read a book in the past year, compared with roughly 70 percent of the general population. Some 75 percent read a print book, 19 percent read an e-book and 11 percent listened to an audio book.

• 60 percent of Americans under 30 used a library in the past year. Some 46 percent used it for research, 38 percent borrowed books, and 23 percent borrowed newspapers, magazines, or journals.

The study also revealed some surprising insights about the use of e-books among younger readers. First, not surprisingly, younger readers are more comfortable with reading digital materials – but they aren’t ditching print books for digital.

“We heard from e-book readers in general [that] they don’t want e-books to replace print books,” Zickuhr told NPR’s Morning Edition. “They see them as part of the same general ecosystem; e-books supplement their general reading habits…We haven’t seen for younger readers that e-books are massively replacing print books.”

There’s also troubling news for tablet makers. Those under 30 are more likely to read e-books on a cell phone or computer than on an e-reader. Pew found that 41 percent of readers under 30 view books using a cell phone and 55 percent read them on a computer. In contrast, only 23 percent used an e-reader and 16 percent used a tablet.

“That’s definitely something we will keep an eye on,” Zickuhr said.

Tablet makers aren’t the only ones who should pay attention to this study. Libraries, listen up: According to Pew’s study, many readers under 30 have expressed a desire to borrow e-books on pre-loaded e-readers from the library. The catch: most libraries today offer this and young readers simply don’t know they can borrow e-books from their local library.

Some 58 percent of readers under 30 said they would be “very” or “somewhat” likely to borrow pre-loaded e-readers if their library offered that service. About 52 percent were unaware they could do so at most libraries and only 10 percent of e-book readers said they borrowed an e-book fro their library.

The good news: libraries have massive potential with younger readers, they just need to understand how best to reach out to this age group.

“...a lot of libraries are really looking at how they can engage with this younger age group, especially with Americans in their teens and early 20s,” Zickuhr told NPR. “And so a lot of libraries are looking at ways to sort of give them their own space in the libraries, have activities just for them. Some libraries even have diner-style booths for the teens where they can just socialize and hang out, and so that they can think of the library as a space of their own.”

We’re tickled that younger generations appear to be avid readers and eager to see how that plays out as these younger readers grow up and help shape the marketplace of books.

Millennials, it turns out, might just help reinvent libraries – and reading – in the new millennium.

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.