The average American citizen spends around 16 minutes per day reading for personal interest. However, these figures vary greatly among different categories of citizens, from age to level of education.
But how many books the average American manages to read within this time? To answer that, we analyzed all available data on the reading habits of people.
How many people haven’t read a book in a year
- In 2020, 23.7% of American citizens stated that they haven’t read any book over the last 12 months.
- Compared to 2019, this is a 13.9% decline in the number of people who haven’t read a book. However, 2020 was heavily impacted by pandemic-related lockdowns, which changed people’s habits.
- Even with the impact of lockdowns, the share of people who haven’t read any book increased by 19.8% compared to 2011.
- Over the last 10 years, the average share of people who haven’t read a book in a year is 23.4%.
Among people who didn’t read any books, there are some demographic differences:
- Men are 23.8% more likely not to read a book in 2020 compared to women.
- People over 50 years of age are 47.4% more likely not to read a book compared to people under 50.
- People with no college degree are 129% more likely not to read a book compared to people with some college degree.
- People living in rural areas are 61% more likely not to read a book compared to people from urban areas.
- 31% of people who earn under $30,000 a year stated that they haven’t read a book over the last 12 months.
- 20% of white people haven’t read a book in a year, along with 25% of black and 38% of Hispanic people.
The average number of books read by year
- In 2020, the average US citizen read 12 books per year, the figure that remained the same for the last 5 years.
- The average dropped from 14 read books in a year during 2011.
- However, the median value for the number of books read by the average citizen is 4. The median also dropped compared to 10 years ago, when it stood at 5.
- 54.6% of people read 5 or fewer books over the last 12 months, down from 57.1% in 2019.
- The share of people who read over 20 books in a year was the largest over the last 10 years, standing at 18.6% during 2020.
The average number of books read by children
The pandemic didn’t have a positive effect on the reading habits of U18 citizens, as the reading rates among children are on a historically-low level:
- Among 17-yeard olds, 27% stated that “never” or “hardly ever” read for fun and personal interest.
- For comparison, only 19% of 17-year olds stated that they read almost every day.
- 13-year olds are in a similar situation, as 29% of them never or hardly ever read, while 17% read almost every day.
- 9-year olds tend to read more than their older friends, as 42% of them read almost every day, and only 16% hardly ever read for pleasure.
Most popular reading formats
While print books remain the dominant reading format for US adults, audiobooks are on the rise:
- 89% of US adults who read a book in 2019 stated that they’ve read a print book.
- Share of the print format dropped by 4.3% over the last 10 years.
- E-books usage jumped from 21% in 2011 to 35% in 2019, which is a 66.7% increase. However, the usage of e-books faced a slight decline over the last few years, dropping from 38% in 2016.
- Audiobooks usage grew by 92.9% since 2011 and currently stands at 27%.
- Additionally, 50.7% of people who read the book in 2019 only read from print books.
- 38.4% of adults read from both printed and digital books, while 11.9% used digital books only.