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Arts & Life

Millennial Generation Likes Old-Fashioned Technology: Books


As it turns out, the generation that has grown up in the age of technology has a fondness for a very old-fashioned habit - reading. According to a new Pew Research Center report, those under 30 were more likely to have read a book in the last year than those over the age of 30. And they're more likely to use the library as well. Joining me now is Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Research Center Internet Project. He joins us from Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C. Thanks so much for joining us.


NEARY: So tell us, what specifically did the study find about the reading habits of millenials?

RAINIE: We asked a lot of Americans about their book-reading habits. We found that 88 percent of those who were ages 16 to 29, the core of the millenial generation, had read a book in the last year. And that compares with 79 percent of those who are 30 and older who had read a book. We also saw that there was more library use, particularly if you counted visits to the library as well as visits to the library website. So this notion that millenials are a disengaged generation doesn't hold up when you ask them about their book-reading habits.

NEARY: And I think there were some different subgroups in the under 30 crowd. What were some of the differences you saw across that age group?

RAINIE: So we broke the younger generation actually into three parts. There's the high school who are 16, 17, 18 years old. They do a lot of book reading in part because it's assigned in their classrooms. Then there are college-age members of this cohort. And some of them spend a lot of time in libraries 'cause they're at college, and they are assigned things. But others of them just enjoy their public libraries because they're still in that frame of mind. And then there are those who are post-college-age, about age 25 to 29. And those are folks who are beginning their families. And so one of the striking things that we've seen is that if you have a child, particularly a child under age six, you're engagement with the library is basically off the charts.

NEARY: Do you have any idea if this is different from any other time that somebody might have taken a snapshot survey of the reading habits of young people?

RAINIE: There have been studies in the past that show that reading numbers bounce around. And yet, this generation is no less likely than its elders at the same stage of life to be reading books and to say that they get things out of them.

NEARY: And again, there might be an expectation that this generation would be reading less because they are engaging so much with technology.

RAINIE: Exactly. There are lots of suppositions about this group that they are so enchanted with their screens that they don't want to read books, and they don't want to write to each other or things like that. And it's just the opposite of what we see. That there's lots more reading and writing going on in this generation than there was in the past. This generation is now adapting technology to do very traditional things in very new ways that matter to them.

NEARY: Lee Rainie of the Pew Research Center. Thanks so much for speaking with us.

RAINIE: Thank you, Lynn. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.