In news that will come as no comfort to Jonathan Franzen and other Luddite technophobes, the Pew Research Internet Project has found that if anything, younger Americans are more likely to read books than their immediate seniors, have more respect for offline/dead-tree sources of knowledge, and are at least as involved with their local libraries as their elders.
“Over three-quarters (77%) of younger Americans have a smartphone, and many also have a tablet (38%) or e-reader (24%),” says the Pew Research summary. “Despite their embrace of technology, 62% of Americans under age 30 agree there is ‘a lot of useful, important information that is not available on the internet,’ compared with 53% of older Americans who believe that.”
Furthermore, “young adults are more likely to have read a book in the past 12 months. Some 43% report reading a book—in any format—on a daily basis, a rate similar to older adults. Overall, 88% of Americans under 30 read a book in the past year, compared with 79% of those age 30 and older.” That said, there doesn’t appear to be a huge generational divide in ebook reading versus print book reading. “Young adults have caught up to those in their thirties and forties in e-reading, with 37% of adults ages 18-29 reporting that they have read an e-book in the past year,” notes Pew Research.
As for libraries, meanwhile, “Among those ages 16-29, 50% reported having used a library or bookmobile in the course of the past year in a September 2013 survey. Some 47% of those 30 and older had done so. Some 36% of younger Americans used a library website in that time frame, compared with 28% of those 30 and older.”
It’s an open question as to whether this counts as a backlash in favor of books. Perhaps the case is more that books never fell out of favor, only a certain, slightly older, generation, became convinced that technology somehow undermined and devalued them. Now we have their successors to show us that that isn’t necessarily the case.
This could leave Franzen in the unfortunate position of being a crusader without a cause. But I doubt that’ll embarrass him into shutting up about reading habits and other subjects. If only …