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1 in 4 Adults Have Not Read a Book in 2006

According to an Associated Press-Ipso poll held in August, one in four American adults did not read a book in 2006. The demographics of who reads falls largely by class and gender lines. Women who are better educated with higher incomes tend to read more, with those who are liberal reading slightly more than conservative Republicans. The 27 percent of non readers tend to be men (nearly a third compared to a quarter of women), older, less educated, lower income, minorities, from rural areas and less religious.

The most read type of book? Popular fiction, histories, biographies and mysteries were given by half while only one in five said that they had read a romance novel. Poetry, politics and classical literature were read by only 5%. Men prefer non fiction while women read more in nearly every other category.

The book business sold approximately 3.1 billion books last year worldword which was an increase of less than 1 percent. This article made me quite sad, not for the book business, but for the state of reading in the US. With the aging baby boomers, this number could decline dramatically in the upcoming years if new readers aren’t fostered.


Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Ann Bruce
    Aug 22, 2007 @ 08:43:46

    Eek! That’s horrible. Perhaps the publishing industry should copy the comic book industry’s Free Comic Book Day. Essentially, one day out of the year, every comic book store in the world (or, rather, mainly North America and Europe) give away a comic book to everyone who comes into the store. It’s been fairly successful. I’ve been suckered into starting series I never tried before and I usually drag someone else with me to convert them to the medium.

  2. RfP
    Aug 22, 2007 @ 09:07:10

    That “1 in 4” (27% don’t read books) figure is more optimistic than a number of other, larger, studies. I compared this new poll to the older studies in gory detail–basically, I’m inclined to believe it’s closer to 40 to 50% who haven’t read a book in the last year.

  3. JHRK
    Aug 22, 2007 @ 09:39:38

    I wonder if this study includes published works on the internet and e-books. A lot of reading now occurs sans paper. Would the averages go up or stay the same? I think another study should be done about the amount of internet content being read per day and who is reading it. That would help to establish a clearer picture. No?

  4. Angela James
    Aug 22, 2007 @ 09:51:51

    I was reading this and thinking “eek, that’s terrible” and then it hit me: my husband is one of those 1 in 4. He’s certainly literate. And educated. And very, very bright. But he does not enjoy reading. It’s not his thing and I don’t remember ever looking at him and wishing he would read more. I don’t find him lacking because of it.

    It was very odd to have that kind of…epiphany.

  5. RfP
    Aug 22, 2007 @ 12:13:53

    The National Endowment for the Arts Reading at Risk [PDF] study found that in 2002 (5 years ago!), 9% of American adults read online and 12% listened to audiobooks. I tabled some of their stats here.

    I have a couple of friends (yep, male) who are internet news/video junkies. The only books they read are the occasional nonfiction work during a long flight. They’re very literate, bright, and informed… and their experience of reading is different from much of mine.

    I do think there’s different value from reading nonfiction versus fiction, versus reading current events, versus a whole host of other ways to spend our time. Must everyone do all of the above, as some sort of moral imperative? I don’t think so. But there are some important benefits–both societal and personal–of being able to read (beyond minimal literacy: I mean being comfortable with words) and, I think, to enjoying reading.

  6. Jayne
    Aug 22, 2007 @ 12:23:33

    I once dated a man, a vet no less, who told me that when he was a child, his parents forced their children to read every day. Because of that, being forced to read whether or not he wanted to, he developed a dislike for reading anything he didn’t have to (ie Vet journals and CE). He said he usually read at most a book a year for pleasure. Needless to say, I initially was staring at him like he had a snake on his head as he told me this. He stared at me the same way when I told him I read about 1/2-1 book a day.

    On a brighter note: I was in Waldenbooks today and they were sponsering books for the community. You could buy any book in the store to donate and they would be spread around to local charities to give to people who wanted them. I donated a big childrens’ book and left the store with an even bigger smile on my face. ;)

  7. Susan Helene Gottfried
    Aug 23, 2007 @ 19:55:16

    It seems to me that if the media (and publishing business) would spend as much time promoting authors who aren’t already best-sellers, more people would be able to find books they’d like to read and … ready for a shocker? Would pick up books and read.

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