E-books are on the rise, but print books rebound and endure

Fear not, lovers of paper and leather-bound tomes. Print books are going to survive the e-book revolution. That's the message hidden inside a new Pew report on the reading habits of American adults.

Yes, the growing use of tablets means people are reading more e-books than ever. But hardly anyone is giving up print books completely. And adult readership of print books actually rebounded last year, after a period of decline, according to the study by Princeton Survey Research Associates International on behalf of the Pew Research Center. While 28% of adults had read an e-book in the last year, 69% had read a print book, and reading overall was up.

“Though e-books are rising in popularity, print remains the foundation of Americans’ reading habits,” Pew researchers wrote in a release on the survey’s results. “Most people who read e-books also read print books, and just 4% of readers are “e-book only.” Overall, 89% of those who had read an e-book had also read a book in print.

The survey was conducted Jan. 2-5 and is based on a nationwide sample of 1,005 adults. (The study thus captured the spread of tablet devices after the 2013 holiday gift season).  Exactly half of all American adults now own either a tablet computer such as an iPad, or an e-reader such as a Kindle or Nook for reading e-books. That figure is up from 43% in September.

The percentage of Americans who’ve read an e-book has increased dramatically over the course of three surveys released in 2011, 2012 and 2014. In the 2011 report, just 17% of adults had read an e-book.

Overall, 76% of American adults read a book last year in one or more of three formats: print, e-books and audiobooks.

The Pew study echoes a private survey in the United Kingdom last year that found that young people prefer print books to e-books.


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