To Read Or Not To Read? That Depends On The Community
December 21, 2012

To Read Or Not To Read? That Depends On The Community

Lee Rannals for — Your Universe Online

According to a survey by the Pew Research Center´s Internet & American Life Project, reading is experienced differently depending on whether people are located in urban, suburban or rural communities.

Pew said that 78 percent of Americans age 16 and older said they read a book in the past 12 months. According to the survey, 80 percent of urban and 80 percent of suburban residents are particularly likely to have read at least one book in the past year.

Rural residents, Pew said, are less likely to have read a book in the past year, with 71 percent of the survey participants living in this area admitting to reading a book.

Although reading books is a common past time, technology is helping to change how people read books.

Among the urban community, 22 percent of the population read an e-book in the past 12 months, compared to just 17 percent of the rural community.

Pew said that suburban residents and urban dwellers are more likely to say they read their newspapers on handheld devices than rural residents.

When it comes to journals and magazines, 52 percent of suburbanites say they read them regularly, compared to 47 percent of urban dwellers and 44 percent of rural residents.

Among those magazine and journal readers, about a third of urban readers and suburban readers do so on their handheld devices, compared to about a fourth of rural readers who read the same material.

While it seems as though a line has been drawn between ebook readers, and print book readers, there are still some who can't seem to shake old habits. Pew said that 14 percent of readers read an ebook and a printed book in the past year. Among these readers, Pew found that urban dwellers tended to prefer ebooks for many activities, while rural readers who have also read in both formats tend to prefer print.

According to Pew, urban residents are more likely than suburban readers to say they are reading more because of availability of digital format, and they are most likely to prefer ebooks over print.

Suburban residents are more likely than urban residents to have used their library to borrow print or audiobooks in the past 12 months, and are more likely than rural residents to express interest in using ebook readers.

Rural residents, according to Pew, are most similar to readers and library users in other kinds of communities, but are a bit less likely to have read a book in the past 12 months and be as avidly engaged with their local library.

The survey shows that book readers in all kinds of communities are similar in how much they read, the format the use for getting content, and whether they read "yesterday" or on a "typical day."

"Statistical modeling shows that the biggest factors at play when it comes to different reading habits are people´s ages, their level of education, and their household income," Pew wrote in a post about the survey. "The type of community in which people live is not an independent predictor of their reading behavior or their activities at libraries."

No matter where people live, those of similar ages and similar socio-economic profiles read and engage their libraries at roughly the same level, according to Pew.

"We present these results because reading differences in different communities are important for libraries to understand because they function in geographic spaces," Pew said.

The research center said that they focused on community types in the hope that the findings could be useful to communities as they find the role of their libraries and contemplate the future of reading, access to knowledge, the process of learning, and where technology fits in to all of that.