A Snapshot of American Reading Habits in 2017

Posted 12 Dec 2017, by

Brendan Brown

Reading opens up an infinite world of pleasure and discovery. People who read books are able to dive into another world, whenever they like, just by turning over a page. That’s a pretty wonderful thing to do.

The problem with books is that they take time and space to read. Finding that time and space can be difficult in our fast-paced world, full of digital distractions. Why, when all of us have access endless information via our smartphones, would anyone choose to read a book?

Reading: the habit that won’t die

Perhaps we still love reading books precisely because it gives as a way out of the digital world. Many predicted the death of print when e-books came on the scene, but in 2017, we’re buying more paper books and fewer e-books.

And while the internet is a constant temptation, it poses no great threat to the traditional book. In 2017, Americans spent almost the same amount of time reading as they did in 2016.

What are we reading?

Americans still love to read, that much we know. But what are we reading?

American home-grown authors are still super-popular, dominating the bestseller charts. And while there are always new names popping up, a few perennial favourites, such as horror writer extraordinaire Stephen King, are among the top names year after year.

For all that, our tastes are diverse, with each state having its own favorite authors and books.

What will you read?

Maybe it’s a while since you last picked up a book. If it is, perhaps 2018 is the time to start.

American reading habits in 2017

Amidst the political dissent and chaos of the Trump administration, the petty arguments and looming threat of nuclear war with North Korea, and explosive social movements such as #metoo, most Americans did not stop reading books in 2017.

While it may seem that “fake news” and the daily political drama in the White House is entertainment in itself, Americans have not stopped devouring books. In comparison to 2016, the year 2017 saw a decrease in the number of Americans reading by 21%, but 18% of Americans spent even more time reading, according to a HuffPost/YouGov poll.  Although the activity of book reading did not seem to be adversely affected by the upheaval of American politics,  the number of international students interested in pursuing studies in the United States has declined. This is likely due to the negative attitude that Trump has towards foreigners.

The “Trump Effect” may have effected a shift of international students from choosing to pursue higher education in the United States to choosing other countries to study in instead, such as Canada. Many American students have also opted to take their studies to Canada. The University of Toronto, for instance, saw an increase of 70% in American applicants since 2016, while McGill University experienced an increase in 22% of American applicants in 2017.  Global English Editing regularly receives theses and dissertations for editing from international students studying abroad at universities world-wide, which can help lessen the burden of stress these students may experience from being away from their home country.

The activity of book reading has been shown to reduce stress, relieve anxiety, and promote sleep. While reading is an activity enjoyed by many Americans, it has been found by the Pew Research Center that young people tend to read more books than older people. For instance, 80% of 18-29 year olds are more likely to have read a book in the last 12 months, compared to 67% of people 65 years and older.  Younger people may also take advantage of novels in the form of text messages sent directly to their cell phones. These texts are sent one after another. Going through a text message novel can be even more suspenseful than reading an e-book.  Although e-books are much cheaper than print books to acquire, they are not going to replace traditional books anytime soon. Sales of e-books have been decreasing in 2016, while the sale of print books have increased. This could be due to “screen fatigue”, as more readers choose to spend less time in front of screens. The year 2017 follows this trend.

Of the most popular and highest paid authors in the world in 2017, 73% of them are American. Although the English writer J.K. Rowling tops the list, American authors James Patterson, James Kinney, Dan Brown, and Stephen King follow close behind. If you were to look even closer, you can even get a snapshot of the most popular books in all fifty states within a particular period of time, thanks to Scribd. It is interesting to note that J.K.Rowling, who has amassed a fortune from her Harry Potter series, simply took up writing when the ideas came to her. She did not major in English or writing in university. Potential authors thinking of turning their rough copy drafts into international best sellers should consider having their books professionally edited and evaluated. Writers who want to improve their writing skills can also benefit from reading more.

It so follows that the most literate cities would harbour the highest consumers of books. The most literate American cities of 2017 were found to be Washington, DC, Seattle WA, and Minneapolis, MN. The factors which were considered for this study included the number of bookstores, education, internet resources, library resources, periodical publishing resources, and access to newspapers. Literacy has important health and social ramifications. For instance, lower rates of literacy has been shown to be associated with poorer health and increased mortality, while higher literacy rates are associated with better health and a higher quality of life.

Sometimes, access to books can be restricted. This is the case if a book is banned from an institution. The American Library Association listed the top ten most challenged books of 2016. Some of these books were challenged or banned for having different points of views. Many of these books were banned because it featured LGBT themes. Book banning is censorship, limiting personal autonomy and decreasing diversity. Incidentally, it has been found that 52% of books which have been challenged or banned in the last ten years in the United States involved matters such as race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, mental illness, and disability. By banning such books, the discussion around these significant issues may be stifled.

The year 2018 promises to be a great year for books. Whether you want entertainment,  relaxation and reduction in stress, improved writing skills, or the expansion your horizons, book reading will help you do all of this. You may download an e-book, a text-message book, or pick up a regular print book-the choice is yours!

There you have it. A complete summary of American reading habits in 2017.

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