“They hadn’t cracked a paperback, fired up a Kindle, or even hit play on an audiobook while in their car. The number of non-book-readers has nearly tripled since 1978.
“If you are the sort of person who believes that TV and the Internet have turned American culture into a post-literate scrubland full of cat GIFs and reality TV spinoffs, then this news will probably reinforce your worst suspicions. But buried beneath it, I think there’s an optimistic story to tell about American book culture. It’s about the kids.
“Without question, the American bookworm is a rarer species than two or three decades ago, when we didn’t enjoy today’s abundance of highly distracting gadgets. In 1978, Gallup found that 42 percent of adults had read 11 books or more in the past year (13 percent said they’d read more than 50!). Today, Pew finds that just 28 percent hit the 11 mark.
“But here’s why we shouldn’t proclaim the death of the book quite yet (aside from the fact that the vast majority of the country does still read them). First, the number of books an American reads tends to be closely associated with their level of education. Even those with just a little bit of college read far more, on average, than high school grads or less. That may be because people who grow up reading are far more likely to enroll in higher education. But it seems at least somewhat likely that reading books in class conditions people to read books later in life. And the good news (for publishers, at least) is that today’s twenty-somethings, as a rule, go to college. A recent Department of Education study found that 85 percent of the high-school class of 2004 had at least some postsecondary education. Continue reading “The end of reading . . . books?”