At this year's Frankfurt Book Fair, Publishers Weekly interviewed Network member Lee Rainie about Pew Research Center's inquiry into how Americans consume books, and "the future of reading." The discussion was based on the recently released Book Reading 2016 Pew report, as well as previous surveys on the topic conducted over the years.
In addition to discussing the continued popularity of physical books and strategies for conducting surveys on book readership, Rainie described the change in reading habits over the last five years, especially as influenced by technology:
"Well, we did a quite extensive survey about the state of reading when we began this work in 2011. In 2011, benchmarking was an important thing to do because e-books were coming of age, and we had just gotten a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to do research that they hoped would be useful to librarians trying to figure out their futures. So we believed that getting a big, rich, broad fix on the state of reading and the state of book in 2011 was a logical starting point. In subsequent surveys, we haven't gone into that much detail, in part because our sense is that people's book reading habits are not changing dramatically year-to-year. It's not like their political views, where measuring it with a lot of regularity makes sense because people change as circumstances change. In book reading, year-to-year, there's not that much change.
One of the things that has changed, however, is the devices people are reading on. There is a big uptick in people using tablets and phones, and not so much dedicated e-book readers. So, you have people who are on the move, people who have commutes and things like that are taking along a device that's makes books accessible to them in circumstances that aren't classic book-reading circumstances. So now, books can be omnipresent in people's lives, if they want them to be. And our data are very clear that there is a class of Americans who just can't get enough books, and if they can't be with the format they love, they love the format they're with."