The Pew Internet & American Life Project has released a new survey that looks at readers of ebooks. The report shows that 21% of American adults say they have read an ebook in the last year, which is up from 17% just last December 2011 (after the holiday season).
The survey holds several interesting highlights, such as 30% of those who read e-content also say they now read more often. Most print readers (54%) and readers of ebooks (61%) prefer to buy copies of books, rather than borrow.
Maybe not surprising, the majority (81%) say that when reading with a child, they prefer print books over ebooks. And this particular fact is interesting to me as Mindy Withrow, my co-author here as well as with our children’s History Lives series, and I recently were surprised that our publisher released our books for Kindle. They sold well for their market (around 1,000 copies in 2 weeks), but I’m guessing that the print edition in boxed-set, which was due to release a month later, could out-sell their ebook counterparts.
And this brings me to the most interesting discovery of the survey. Only 3% said that they read because “they like being mentally challenged.” This was the first statistic I saw from this survey. It was only a tweet, so I quickly Googled for more.
It can be easy to take a statistic and run with it, but there really is more to it. If I were to consider all of the possible ways individuals might conceive of being “mentally challenged” by taking into consideration different personality types, different careers, hobbies, etc., then I imagine that those who wish to push themselves to look outside of their usual reading—from statistics manuals to the imagination of fiction, or from reading that affirms one’s perspective to that which expands it into new ideas—might express themselves as they do in these results.
Keep in mind, being challenged is different for different people. Introverts are always being told that they have to challenge themselves by interacting with people, and to challenge an extrovert would be to tell him or her to find a place for some alone time.
For example, 26% said that “what they enjoyed most was learning, gaining knowledge, and discovering information,” 15% enjoyed “escaping reality” but also part of that was “using their imaginations.” The “suspense of watching a good plot unfold” (12%) or “expanding their worldview” (4%) were just some of the responses. Challenging one’s mind to do that which it does not normally get to do must involve learning, discovering knowledge, using one’s imagination, enjoying a good story, and expanding one’s worldview. For 3% to say that what they like about reading is “being mentally challenged” is just a broader way of getting at all of these things.
That is why at The Discarded Image you’ll find fiction and nonfiction, articles around the internet, and whatever else that manages to invade the mind with an army of new possibilities.
Ebooks have people reading more. Sure, this provides its own dilemmas. It has become easier to produce poorly written and researched materials as a result of ebooks. The good news is that, according to this study, owners of e-readers are more likely to get their recommendations from people they know (81%) and bookstore staff (31%), so they are not blindly picking out materials. But I am encouraged to find that in this very busy American life, individuals using e-readers on tablets or cell phones are taking more time to enjoy a good book.