Are You Reading This?

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How many books do you read a year?

It’s an unfair question, because if you are reading this blog post, you are already amongst the reading elite. I used to toss out a statistic about reading (don’t know where I got… don’t know what the source is) which stated that the average person reads about one book a year. School has a funny way of turning people off of reading and learning. Fully recognizing that this isn’t the case for everybody (some people loved it back then and keep at it now), but – on average – if you are to believe Sir Ken Robinson that school kills creativity, it’s not that far of a leap to believe that it kills reading right along with it.

When did you rediscover reading?

When I finished High School, I half-jokingly told my friends that I would never read a book again. I say half-jokingly because it’s hard to believe your own hype when you look back on the things one did in High School. I stuck to my guns, though. I came back to reading when I took a job working for Andy Nulman at a mobile content startup around fifteen years ago. On my first day of work, he passed me a copy of Tom PetersThe Project 50 and told me to read it. I did. I fell in love with reading. I was shocked. My perception of a business book was that it was an adult’s version of a text book. Lots of words. Lots of pages. It makes your eyes tired and close. Non-medicated sleeping pills. What I discovered was a whole new world. A place where bold ideas are pushed out, prodded, explored, challenged and floated. I devoured that book… and most any other book related to business in its path. I read. Relentlessly. If I’m not in the middle of a book (or two… or three…) it can be panic inducing… like I am missing out… falling behind.

So, how about you?

I like reading (and writing) so much, that I’m fascinated with books about people who write (and those that love to read them). Yesterday, I dove deep into a Research Brief article titled, Only Time Prevents More Reading. Here are some of the good (and bad/depressing) data that was uncovered about how we read:

  • 54% of Americans currently read e-books, including 66% of Millennials.
  • 36% of Americans say that they read more than ten books a year.
  • Those who read exclusively in the e-book format are more likely to read over 20 books in an average year.
  • 65% of Americans purchased at least one book in the past year, 9% purchasing over 20. 
  • Those favoring e-books purchased roughly twice as many as those preferring hard copies.
  • Millennials were more likely than their elders to have read more in the past six months.
  • The vast majority of Americans read at least one book a year.
  • Women read twice as many books as men.
  • 46% of Americans say that they only read hard copy books.

Busting myths.

It’s interesting to see that while nearly half of Americans only read hard cover books, those that read e-books are much more rabid. It also debunks the myth that young people do not read as much as they used. But, there’s something bigger at play here (and it’s a topic that all marketers need to be constantly reminded of): the digital disruption, in this case, is both good and bad. Having access to books nearly everywhere makes people buy and read more books (yay), but having those books on tablets, smartphones and e-readers couples book reading with other massive distractions (emails, surfing, articles, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube… everything else). People’s general sentiment is that they would love to read more, if only they could find the time.

The thing about "finding the time."

We have to just admit it. We’re never going to find the time. We have too much content in too close of proximity to us, at all times. No one has ever "caught up" on their reading. There’s always something else (more) to read. These digital devices don’t just enable us to carry around an unlimited amount of books, they enable us to carry around an unlimited amount of content across every platform (text, images, audio and video). The competition for attention is fiercer than it has ever been. But, reading is important. Not just any kind of reading, but long form content. Yes, in our ADD 140 character world, depth and time spent with a richer piece of content will fire synapses that you just won’t get from Buzzfeed or Upworthy. Sadly, you won’t find more time to read. Sadly, we just have to accept the truest reality: We always make time for the things that are important to us.

Digital technology is making us better at reading books. Make time for reading. It’s that important.