From the Atlantic … the next time someone says the Internet killed reading books, show them this chart:
The chart has a number of problems, not the least of which is how they put the present time on the left, defying all normal chart conventions, and therefore making it look like there was a decline. Sigh. But other issues include the gap between 1957 and 1990, and that there is no more recent data than 2005. So I went looking for more.
This article presents a nice summary of the Pew Research Center's recent research into U.S. adult reading. It shows that 78 percent of adults read a book in the past year, and that four times the number of people are reading e-books compared to just two years ago. It looks like the larger the number of book formats available - e-books, audio books, print - the more reading.
And the Mary Sue reports that Generation Y (those born between 1979 and 1989) has just officially overtaken the Baby Boomers as the generation that reads the most books (and 43 percent of their book purchases are online).
I found a lot more statistics online that seem to be all over the map. The ones bemoaning our assumed decline in reading are often presented with no context, so it's only really the stats that compare over a long time that are valuable.
As a side note, here's a tidbit from The Week (Aug 24-31, 2012): "A textual analysis of 1.2 million books published since 1900 found that the proportion of male pronouns to female pronouns fell from 4.5 to 1 in the 1950s to less than 2 to 1 in 2005." If I had to make a guess, I would bet that the number of female authors rose dramatically in the same period. This relates back to the overall reading numbers, of course, in that a surefire way to make reading appeal to greater numbers of people is to increase the diversity of what's available.
PS> Keep an eye out for my next post - a special announcement just in time for my 100th blog post!