Who Reads Books?

Ransom Riggs

Update: These statistics appear to be from a 2003 survey conducted by a company called The Jenkins Group. The stats have been mentioned in books, blog posts and newspaper articles, but we've been unable to uncover any explanation of the results. We've reached out to The Jenkins Group and will update this post as warranted.

If anyone reads books, it's probably you guys. But according to some startling statistics, you're a dying breed. To wit:

• One-third of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives. • 42 percent of college graduates never read another book after college. • 80 percent of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year. • 70 percent of U.S. adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years. • 57 percent of new books are not read to completion.

I can relate to that last one -- I buy lots of books (or check them out from the library) but a significant portion of them I only get about halfway through -- or less, if they don't hold my interest. But that stat about 42% of college grads never reading another book? That's a little frightening. One thing I'm not certain about, and isn't mentioned in these statistics, is how they stack up over time -- but I'll bet you money that more than 42% of college grads kept reading books in the 1950s, 60s, 70s.

So what's to blame? A shift in popular entertainment? The dominance of the screen over the printed page? Are books just less interesting than they used to be? Or are we, as a society, getting ... dumber?

What do you think?