A recent NPD survey shows that reading is here to stay, but the way we are doing it is changing

PORT WASHINGTON, N.Y., September 16, 2019 – According to global information company The NPD Group, nearly three out of four consumers in the U.S. reported reading a book or listening to an audiobook in the past six months. Even so, books are facing stiff competition for consumer attention from other entertainment activities. While there is plenty of reading going on, survey respondents reported reading roughly 9 percent less this year than they did last year overall, with the steepest drop off reported for readers between the ages of 45 and 54.

Print books are preferred over any other reading format, according to the 2019 “Evolution of Entertainment Study” from NPD. In fact, more than half of respondents reported reading a print book in the past six months, while only one-quarter read an electronic book (e-book). This is consistent with NPD point-of-sale tracking, where the print book market makes up 81 percent of the overall market, up from 72 percent in 2013.

“The preference for print books over e-books is especially true for kids’ books,” said Kristen McLean, books industry analyst, BookScan®. “Parents value the lap time print books offer, which is a wonderful way for parents to bond with their children and foster a love of reading early on. They also view print books as an offset to screen time, in our increasingly connected world.”


Audiobooks are part of a growing listening movement in the U.S., evidenced by the increase in popularity of podcasts and digital music. NPD survey respondents who read books also reported spending 10 percent more time this year than they did last year listening to other forms of audio, including podcasts and music. When asked why they are focused on listening, respondents cited the ability to multi-task as a key factor.

Audiobook listeners are also some of the most omnivorous consumers, from a demographic and behavioral point of view. In fact, adults between the ages of 18 and 44, a key consumer demographic for marketers, are listening to audiobooks the most. “Audiobook listeners are also most likely to engage with all forms of book activity, making them valuable consumers when it comes to content and purchasing power,” McLean said. “They practice equal-opportunity literacy, not only listening to audiobooks, but also reading print books, magazines, and graphic novels.” 

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