Who’s Really Reading Books These Days? Surprise—It’s Not Who You Think

A new Pew Research Center survey found that when it comes to cracking open books, young adults under age 30 are totally crushing it.

(Photo: Abel Mitja Varela/Getty Images)

Sep 16, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

Get ready to say good-bye to the stereotype of the texting and selfie-posting millennial holed up in Mom and Dad’s basement binge-watching The Vampire Diaries. According to a new report from the Pew Research Center, Americans younger than 30 are more likely than any other age group to have read a book in the last year.

For its Younger Americans and Public Libraries report, Pew conducted cell phone and landline surveys of more than 6,200 people over the age of 16. They found that 43 percent of millennials under 30 read on a daily basis, slightly more than the 40 percent of folks age 30 and over who read every day. What’s more impressive is that 88 percent of the under-30 crowd had read a book in the past year, compared with 79 percent of those 30 and older.

Indeed, the report’s authors found that young adults read a median of 10 books every year. Although the demise of the printed book is often predicted, it turns out that only 37 percent of young adults report that they read an e-book in the past year—they’re still down with old-school paperback and hardback texts.

It might be tempting to chalk up the high reading rates of young adults to their status as students. However, Pew broke out the data and found that 25- to 29-year-olds read on a daily basis at the same rate as college-age 18- to 24-year-olds. Interestingly enough, the 25- to 29-year-olds were more likely to read on a weekly basis (27 percent) than the 18- to 24-year-olds (22 percent).

As for those who said they didn’t read at all, only 4 percent of the under-30 crowd told Pew that they never cracked open a text. Meanwhile, 8 percent of the 30-and-up crowd admitted to not reading at all.

The report is sure to be welcome news to the nation’s authors and publishers—whew, they’re not going out of business yet. Moreover, whether they’re reading Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century or Veronica Roth’s Divergent, millennials-as-bookworms might also be good news for our democracy. After all, an educated, literate citizenry is at the heart of a free society.