Do E-readers Inspire More Reading?

Last Wednesday’s The Wall Street Journal reported on the rise of e-readers and the fact that many Americans may be reading more because of these new technologies.  As the National Endowment for the Arts has reported, the last few years have seen a decline in the amount of time spent reading, particularly among Americans ages 18-24 who report reading zero books over the last year.  That’s why it is encouraging to see that out of 1,200 e-reader owners, 40% now read more than they did when they had access only to print material.  With Forrester Research estimating that 11 million Americans will own an e-reader by the end of September, we can infer that the percentage of Americans reading regularly will likely rise.  And Amazon reported that customers buy 3.3 times as many books after buying a Kindle.

But are we truly reading more?  It may not be quite that simple.  Are the statistics misleading, obscuring the fact that people may buy these gadgets and impulsively buy a number of e-books in the excitement of trying out their new toy? Did they initially buy the e-reader simply because it was the hottest new technology out there? Even On Our Minds blogger, Ivy Li reported that while she was an early adopter of e-readers, and has since constantly filled her spare time with reading, she isn’t reading more and certainly not as well!  Though the portability of the e-book devices is certainly attractive, reading in short spurts may prove difficult for total immersion in certain texts. She admits she ‘book-hops’ and gets caught up in the millions of books available for her to buy.

It’s too soon to tell what long-term impact e-readers will have on our overall reading habits.  Consumers appear to have a strong desire for digitized content, whatever the delivery device.  It’s our hope that Americans continue to read in increasing numbers – whether through electronic devices or in print.

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