Few Americans Reading Books

CNN reports the results of a recent Associated Press–Ipsos poll studying the reading habits of American adults. On the whole, it is mildly disappointing, though not surprising. Among the findings, twenty-seven percent of adults read no books in the past year, and the median number of books read was four (excluding the non-readers, the median number of books read was seven).

While I find this level clearly less than desirable, it certainly could be a lot worse. Of course, there are many reasons cited for the low levels of reading books, such as the availability of so many other forms of entertainment. Also, the rise of the Internet has made it possible for people to easily access information from home, without having to leave the house to purchase a book or borrow one from the library.

I’ve seen a lot of criticism against popular reading phenomena such as the Harry Potter series (wp) or Oprah’s Book Club (wp). Major booksellers such as Barnes & Noble (wp) and Borders (wp) are criticized as well. But I consider these to be positive influences that help stimulate and sustain interest in reading. If they bring books to the attention of the public, if they help make books more accessible, then I support them.