Ask The Editor

January 12, 2009

Survey: Americans reading more fiction

Finally, a bit of good news on the publishing front: According to a survey conducted for the National Endowment for the Arts, Americans are reading more literature, from novels to short stories. Even better, the increase in reading isn’t just among older generations whose reading habits were formed before there was a web to distract us. Reading increased most significantly, according to the survey, among 18 to 24-year-olds. What’s also interesting is that 15 percent of those surveyed said that they read literature online. Below are a few bullet points from the NEA press release that should come as good news for authors of novels and short stories and also, provide hints about where those new readers may be found:

  • Since 2002, reading has increased at the sharpest rate (+20 percent) among Hispanic Americans, Reading rates have increased among African Americans by 15 percent, and among Whites at an eight percent rate of increase.
  • For the first time in the survey’s history, literary reading has increased among both men and women. Literary reading rates have grown or held steady for adults of all education levels.
  • Fiction (novels and short stories) accounts for the new growth in adult literary readers.
  • A slight majority of American adults now read literature (113 million) or books (119 million) in any format.
  • Reading is an important indicator of positive individual and social behavior patterns. Previous NEA research has shown that literary readers volunteer, attend arts and sports events, do outdoor activities, and exercise at higher rates than non-readers.
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