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America's Facebook Generation Is Reading Strong

Pew's study found that 60 percent of Americans under 30 used the library in the past year. (iStockphoto.com)

In what may come as a pleasant surprise to people who fear the Facebook generation has given up on reading — or, at least, reading anything longer than 140 characters — a new report from the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project reveals the prominent role of books, libraries and technology in the lives of young readers, ages 16 to 29. Kathryn Zickuhr, the study's main author, joins NPR's David Greene to discuss the results.


Interview Highlights

On the reading habits of young Americans

"We found that about 8 in 10 Americans under the age of 30 have read a book in the past year. And that's compared to about 7 in 10 adults in general, American adults. So, they're reading — they're more likely to read, and they're also a little more likely to be using their library."

On the use of e-books among young readers

"We heard from e-book readers in general [that] they don't want e-books to replace print books. They see them as part of the same general ecosystem; e-books supplement their general reading habits. And we heard from a lot of younger e-book readers about how e-books just fit into their lives — how they can read when they're waiting in line for class, or waiting in line for lunch. One reader in particular told us that when he has a book that he loves, he wants to be able to access it in any format. So with the Harry Potter series and the [Song of Ice and Fire] series, he's actually bought all of those books as print books and as e-books, just because they matter that much to him ...

"We haven't seen for younger readers that e-books are massively replacing print books. That might happen in the future, but right now we're just seeing them sort of as a more convenient supplement."

On the changing role of libraries for young readers

"We found that [younger people are] very interested in the idea of preloaded e-readers — being able to check out an e-reader at a library that already has some popular titles on it. And a lot of libraries are really looking at how they can engage with this younger age group, especially with Americans in their teens and early 20s. And so a lot of libraries are looking at ways to sort of give them their own space in the libraries, have activities just for them. Some libraries even have diner-style booths for the teens where they can just socialize and hang out, and so that they can think of the library as a space of their own."

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Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

We have some news this morning that could come as a pleasant surprise to people who fear the Facebook generation has given up on reading - well, reading anything longer than 140 characters. There's a new report out today from the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project. Over the past year they've been studying the reading habits of what they call younger readers and the role of books, libraries and technology in their lives. To learn about some of the findings, we're joined by Kathryn Zickuhr, the study's main author. Kathryn, thanks for stopping by.

KATHRYN ZICKUHR: Thanks for having me.

GREENE: You know, one of the numbers that caught my eye in this report is that eight of 10 young people - and we should say that's 16 to 29-year-olds - have read a book in the past year. How do we interpret that?

ZICKUHR: Well, that's compared to about seven in 10 adults in general. So they're more likely to read and they're also a little more likely to be using their library.

GREENE: And what did the younger people say when they talked about why they still enjoy getting a print book when there are e-books and other options out there?

ZICKUHR: Well, we heard from e-book readers in general how they don't want e-books to replace print books. E-books supplement their general reading habits. And we heard from a lot of younger e-book readers about how they can read when they're waiting in line for class or waiting in line for lunch. One reader in particular told us that when he has a book that he loves, he wants to be able to access it in any format. So with the Harry Potter series and the "Game of Thrones" series, he's actually bought all of those books as print books and as e-books, just because they matter that much to him.

GREENE: And what about the library? I suppose this generation might have different needs, different demands for what they want out of their library than people did maybe 10, 20 years ago. What have you found?

ZICKUHR: Well, we found that they're very interested in the idea of preloaded e-readers - being able to check out an e-reader at a library that already has some popular titles on it. And a lot of libraries are really looking at how they can engage with this younger age group, especially with Americans in their teens and early 20s. And so a lot of libraries have activities just for them. Some libraries even have sort of diner-style booths for the teens where they can just socialize and hang out, and so that they can think of the library as a space of their own.

GREENE: Kathryn Zickuhr is a research analyst at the Pew Internet Project, and she was talking to us about a new study that shows a significant portion of the younger generation is still reading and visiting libraries. Kathryn, thanks for coming by.

ZICKUHR: Thanks for having me.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And there may be a new gadget you can use to read e-books: the much-talked-about iPad Mini. Apple is expected to unveil the device today at a media event in San Jose, California. Not much is conclusively known about this product, except that if the speculation is correct, it would be smaller and cheaper than the iPad. Still, that is not stopping some companies from making iPad Mini cases, even though they do not have dimensions for this device. According to Wired.com, one company unveiled their case yesterday based mostly on rumors. Which means if they have the specs right, they will either be ready for customers or they will be out of luck and out of money. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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