OnlineUniversities.com has a post by Justin Marquis Ph.D. looking at the alarming trend of declining reading rates over the last few decades, and bringing up the recent Pew study showing that e-reader owners read more as a possible harbinger of ways to reduce the trend.
People who read more, Marquis points out, become more “interesting, engaged, and intellectual”. They have a higher degree of emotional as well as standard literacy, developing empathy through repeatedly putting themselves in the place of the characters they read about. Adolescents who don’t develop good reading habits are at a disadvantage in college where so much of learning is based on reading. And the more people who read individually, the more that greater society as a whole is more intellectually engaged.
The statistics show that literacy boosters may have their work cut out for them, however. The figures have been in steady decline over the last few decades. In 1978, only 8% of those surveyed had not read a single book in the last 12 months. In 2011, that figure was up to 19%—nearly 1 in every 5 people. And 13% of those surveyed in 1978 had read over 50 books in the last year, but only 5% in 2011.
I wonder how much e-book prices have to do with how much people read? They can buy more $2.99 books than $12.99 ones—and, for that matter, can also check out free e-books in libraries (when the publishers permit it). Would be interesting to do a study following the reading habits of Amazon customers, and how many cheap versus expensive e-books are bought and read. (Of course, Amazon already has access to that kind of information, but will they ever share it? No way, José!)
At any rate, I’d like to see more people reading, and people reading more. And if e-books can help accomplish that, then hey: go e-books!