Reading in the Digital Age

pew-reading-researchOn Tuesday, I mentioned two topics I plan to explore in 2017: successful historical fiction and social reading. As a starting point, I thought it might be useful to see what people are saying about the future of reading so I did a little exploring and found an interesting interview between Publishers Weekly and Lee Rainie of the Pew Research Center who is responsible for research on American reading habits.

A few quotes that I found particularly interesting:

“… it strikes me that the publishing industry is innovating—the number of genres, formats, and in more ways in which they are marketing and finding pathways to readers.”

“The number of other claimants on people’s time and attention is also growing, and book publishers are not just competing against each other, they’re competing with a host of other enterprises that are making pretty compelling pitches to people for their time. With so many ways people can allocate their time now, I think the surprising thing for us is that books are holding their own.”

“.. we have this explosion of supply now in an e-book age … the story is that through this boom in the supply side of the story, the demand side has been relatively stable”

“People today have a lot more relationships—and strands of relationships—than their ancestors did. Today you can be part of a fan group that’s global for a particular author, or genre, and it doesn’t matter whether you find like-minded folks in your local community. You can share what you know with all of those other fans, wherever they are. And that’s a big change in human experience.”

“… book publishers might sort of expand their notion of what this networked reality means for them. At the first level, every product can be a community—so if you find an audience for a piece of work, an author, a genre, whatever, you’ve got a built-in fan base and a fan base that you can much more readily identify now than in the past, and once you know who they are and what they want, you can better meet their needs.”

You can read the whole interview here. And here’s a link to the PEW survey.

PS – I realize this is US data so I’ll have a look for studies from other parts of the world.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION follow A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union on August 16, 2016. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website

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6 Responses

  1. Hi Mary. That’s some interesting research. It’s so true about competing demands, especially for the younger generations. It’s reassuring that people still read as much as they do.
    PS my mother has left a comment on my blog about how much she is enjoying Time & Regret

  2. The title of this post made me think of a free online course I took last year : “Literature in the Digital Age” by a Professor of the University of Basel in Switzerland. Here is the link in case this is of interest :
    I must say though that I was a little bit disappointed by the contents of this course. The “digital” aspect is explored in the first few modules, but much less so afterwards. I nonetheless found it interesting to learn about new trends like “social reading” – which I hope to try one day!

  3. This is one of the better studies I’ve seen on book reading habits— thanks, Mary. However, it’s still teasingly insufficient in terms of Fiction. Can we assume that “reading for pleasure” equals “reading fiction”? Probably not as the full study throws in magazines, newspapers, and online content in with books for this “motivation.” But even so, it’s good to see no drop-off in “reading for pleasure.” There’s another Gallop poll out there on reading, but it’s not nearly as in-depth as this one is.

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