One in Four Americans Read No Books

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One in four American adults read no books at all in the past year, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll. Of those who did read, women and older people were most avid, and religious works and popular fiction were the top choices. The typical person claimed to have read four books in the last year.

Of the 27 percent of people who hadn’t read a single book this year, nearly a third of men and a quarter of women fit that category. They tend to be older, less educated, lower income, minorities, from rural areas and less religious.

Those with college degrees read the most, and people aged 50 and up read more than younger people.

The Bible and religious works were read by two-thirds in the survey, more than all other categories. Popular fiction, histories, biographies and mysteries were all cited by about half, while one in five read romance novels. Every other genre – including politics, poetry and classical literature – were named by fewer than five percent of readers.

More women than men read every major category of books except for history and biography. Industry experts say that confirms their observation that men tend to prefer nonfiction.

Those likeliest to read religious books included older and married women, lower earners, minorities, lesser educated people, Southerners, rural residents, Republicans and conservatives.

Gallup Poll asked in 2005 how many books people had at least started, the typical answer was five. That was down from 10 in 1999.

In 2004, a National Endowment for the Arts report titled “Reading at Risk” found only 57 percent of American adults had read a book in 2002, a four percentage point drop in a decade. The study faulted television, movies and the Internet.

Book sales have been flat in recent years and are expected to stay that way indefinitely. Analysts attribute the listlessness to competition from the Internet and other media, the unsteady economy and a well-established industry with limited opportunities for expansion.

AP: One in Four Read No Books Last Year

AP Ipsos Poll

© 2007, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.

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