Young Americans are still hitting the books

There always seems to be a myth that young people have given up on reading and now devote their lives solely to social media, but anyone who has seen the stunning sales for books like The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and the Divergent series by Veronica Roth, among many others, know that the truth is that young folk are voracious readers.

In fact, it’s fairly safe to say that the New Adult/Young Adult sectors have given book publishers a new lease of life over the past few years, so it comes as little surprise to read of research showing that young folk are still keen readers, although it is an encouraging reassurance.

Pew Internet Research has been conducting extensive research to find out how young people aged between 16 and 29 feel about libraries.

One of the key findings in their report is that young Americans don’t believe you can find the answer to everything on the internet and, contrary to those commonly held beliefs, actually read more books than older people.

It points out that within the 16-29 group, there are three separate groups, each with differing book reading habits, library usage patterns, and attitudes about libraries.

High-schoolers aged 16-17 make up one group while there is also college-age (18-24), and the older group of 25-29.

One of the most interesting findings from the survey with the so-called Millenials is they are more likely than their elders to say important information is not available on the internet.

They are certainly technology-savvy, with 98% of people under 30 using the internet, and 90% of those using social networking sites, while 77% have a smartphone, 38% have a tablet and 24% have an e-reader.

But despite their take-up of technology, 62% say there is “a lot of useful, important information that is not available on the internet” compared with 53% of older Americans.

Millennials are more likely than older people to have read a book in the past 12 months, with 88% of having read a book in the past year, compared with 79% of older people, and 37% of people aged 18-29 have read an ebook in the past year.

They also beat older age groups in their use of libraries, with half of Millenials in the research having used a library or bookmobile over a past year while 47% of those 30 and older had done so. 36% of younger Americans used a library website, compared with 28% of those 30 and older.

However, young Americans are among the least likely to say libraries are important, with just 19% saying their library closing would have a major impact on them and their family, compared with 32% of older adults, and 51% of younger Americans say it would have a major impact on their community, compared with 67% of older people.

Over a third of young people (36%) know little or nothing about their local library’s services, compared with 29% of those 30 and older.

The Pew research found that older teens aged 16-17 are more likely to read (particularly print books), more likely to read for work or school, and more likely to use the library for books and research than older age groups. They are the only age group more likely to borrow most of the books they read instead of buying them, and are also more likely to get reading recommendations at the library.

But 16-17-year-olds are also less likely than older people to say they highly value public libraries, both as a personal and community resource. College-aged adults (ages 18-24) are less likely to use public libraries than many other age groups. They are more likely to buy most of the books they read rather than borrow them, and are more likely to read the news regularly than 16-17-year-olds.

The library habits and views of those in the 25-29 age group are more similar to members of older age groups than their younger counterparts.

They are less likely than college-aged adults to have read a book in the past year but more likely to keep up with the news. A large proportion (42%) are parents, a group with particularly high rates of library usage.

Library users in this group are less likely than younger patrons to say their library use has decreased and much more likely to say various library services are very important to them and their family.

You can read further details about the long-running research project at Pew Internet.