How Many Books Does the Average Person Read?

How Many Books Does the Average Person Read?

There are numerous benefits to reading, yet not all people decide to enjoy them. In fact, over the last several years, reading averages in the US (and Worldwide) have been declining. In this report, we examine the number of books the average US citizen, and people all around the world read, for pleasure during the course of the year.

Highlights

  • The average American reads 12.6 books per year, including the books they started reading but haven’t necessarily completed.
  • If we count only fully-read books, the average American adult reads just over 5 books per year.
  • 68% of Americans read wonder 10 books per year, with 23% never started reading a book over the past 12 months.
  • 51.57% of American adults haven’t read a whole book (print or an ebook) over the past 12 months.
  • Print books are still a favorite format for people, but audiobooks are rising fast.
  • If people decide to read at least one full book, they are 29 times more likely to continue reading than stop at one.

How many books does the average American read?

  • The average American citizen starts reading around 12.6 books per year, with the median standing at around 4 books per year.
  • Back in 2016, the average number of books people engaged with during 12 months was 15.6, and in 1999, the average was 18.5.
  • However, when asked how many books they completed reading over the past 12 months, the average drops to around 5.38 books per year.
GroupBooks read in 12 months
Started reading a book (average)12.6
Started reading a book (2016 average)15.6
Started reading a book (1999 average)18.5
Read a whole book5.38
Started reading a book (median)4
  • GenZ readers completed just over 3.52 books during 12 months, and Millenials read 4.38 full books on average.
  • Older generations more regularly complete their books, as the average GenX adult reads 6.01 full books per year, while Boomers average around 9.54 books over the same period.
  • 45.93% of Boomers read more than 4 books in a year, with 25.91% reading more than 11 books.
  • On the other hand, only 8.49% of GenZ Americans read more than 11 books during the year.
MillennialsAverage full books read
GenZ3.52
Millenials4.38
GenX6.01
Boomers9.54

If we focus only on US adults who engage with reading, around 74% of Americans declare that they’ve read, even partially, at least one book in 12 months.

  • 5% of Americans started reading exactly one book over the past 12 months, and 30% read up to 5 books over the same period.
  • 68% of US adults read under 10 books per year.
  • 18% of Americans started reading more than 20 books over the past year.
YearHaven’t read a book1 book2-3 books4-5 books6-10 books11-20 booksMore than 20 booksDidn’t answer
202123.00%5.00%16.00%9.00%15.00%11.00%18.00%3.00%
201927.00%6.00%14.00%9.00%14.00%13.00%15.00%2.00%
201824.00%5.00%15.00%12.00%16.00%12.00%14.00%2.00%
201626.00%7.00%16.00%12.00%13.00%10.00%15.00%1.00%
201527.00%6.00%16.00%11.00%14.00%12.00%14.00%0.00%
201423.00%5.00%14.00%12.00%17.00%13.00%15.00%1.00%
201223.00%6.00%17.00%13.00%14.00%11.00%13.00%3.00%

How many books do people read by format?

Print books are still the most popular reading format among Americans, but the trends over the last 10 years show the rise of digital – especially audiobooks:

  • 65% of Americans have read at least one print book over the past 12 months.
  • 30% of Americans read at least one ebook over the same period, and 23% of them have listened to at least one audiobook.
  • 32% of Americans read only print books, 33% read books in both print and digital formats, while 9% use digital formats exclusively.
  • Since 2012, the share of Americans who read at least 1 print book declined by 5.56%.
  • During the same time, the share of Americans who read an ebook increased by 34.48%.
  • The share of American adults who read at least 1 audiobook increased by 106.67% since 2012.
YearPrintEbookAudioGrowth printGrowth ebookGrowth audio
202162.90%28.86%22.94%-0.46%16.14%19.67%
201963.19%24.85%19.17%-4.05%-1.23%7.94%
201865.86%25.16%17.76%0.24%-11.63%21.64%
201665.70%28.47%14.60%3.45%2.63%17.65%
201563.51%27.74%12.41%-8.17%-1.35%-14.06%
201469.16%28.12%14.44%3.84%31.03%30.09%
201266.60%21.46%11.10%
Since 2012-5.56%34.48%106.67%

How many people haven’t read a book in the US?

Statistics on the reading habits of Americans can vary depending on sources and survey designs. Our survey on the reading habits of Americans, which included only print and ebook formats, was specifically focused on people who read at least one whole book over the past 12 months.

The results showed that over 50% of American adults didn’t read a whole book over the past 12 months and that younger generations read less compared to GenX and Boomers:

  • 51.57% of American adults haven’t read a whole print book or an ebook over the past 12 months.
  • Over 16.07% of Americans haven’t read a full book in over 5 years.
  • Reading is contagious – our survey shows that people who complete reading at least one book are unlikely to stop there – only 1.55% of readers read only one full book over the last 12 months.
  • Readers are 29x more likely to read more than just one book over the year.
Time spent since the last bookShare of US adults
1-2 years23.61%
3-5 years11.18%
6-10 years5.24%
10+ years10.83%

How many books do people read around the world?

  • The average Chinese citizen reads around 7.49 books per year, 4.65 of which are print books and 2.84 are digital books.
  • 86% of New Zealanders have at least started to read at least one book over the last 12 months.
  • French citizens read around 17 books per year on average, and 88% of them read to at least some extent.
  • 70.5% of South Africans have read at least once for pleasure over the past year.
  • 29.9 million Germans bought a book over the past year – in 2013, over 36.5 million Germans bought a book.
  • The average Canadian citizen reads around 17 books per year.
  • In Spain, the average citizen reads around 9 books over the course of 12 months.
  • In South America, people read between 1.6 and 5.3 books per year.