Newsletter 1

The Book Riot 2013 Reading Habits Survey: The Results

Rebecca Joines Schinsky

Chief of Staff

Rebecca Joines Schinsky is the executive director of product and ecommerce at Riot New Media Group. She co-hosts All the Books! and the Book Riot Podcast. Follow her on Twitter: @rebeccaschinsky.

reading habits survey

Last month, in a flurry of survey results from outside sources and extended Methodology Corner sections of the Book Riot Podcast (if you’re not a listener, that’s when we discuss new studies about the world of books and reading and highlight their strengths, weaknesses, and takeaway points), we decided it was high time to collect some data from our own community. We wanted to keep it simple, so we asked four straightforward questions about your reading habits in 2013. We focused on print vs. ebooks in order to enable comparison with other studies. Many readers pointed out our decision not to include audiobooks, and we might revisit that in the future. We love audiobooks and believe they count just as much as books of any other format.

Some notes on methodology

  • When ranges were entered (“45-55”), the middle number of the range (50) was used as the response.
  • All words indicating approximations were removed, and the approximated number was used as the response. (“About 90” became “90.”)
  • All greater than/lesser than indications were removed, and the indicated number was used as the response. (“90+” became “90.”)

    Why? Because you can’t use words in a statistical data analysis, and I can’t possibly guess at what you mean when you say “more than 90.”

    Note: As with all self-report surveys, the data is only as accurate as the respondents are truthful. We have no way to confirm the number of books participants actually read, and it’s reasonable to guess that some of the clustering around round-number responses (25, 50, 100, etc.) might be due to participants who did not track their reading making guesstimates about their totals instead.

    Additionally, we should not assume that this sample is representative. The results here indicate reading habits of Book Riot readers who saw the survey and chose to participate. These individuals may differ in some meaningful way(s) from readers who were not online when the survey was distributed or who opted not to participate. Therefore, we cannot use this data to generalize to Book Riot’s community at large.

    Ready? Let’s do this!

    Total Respondents: 2721

    Question 1: How many books did you read in 2013?

    2013 reading habits

    Number of Responses: 2483

    Range: 2  – 1500

    Mean – Average # of Books Read in 2013: 75

    Median: 55

    Mode: 50

    Standard Deviation: 76

    Here’s a scatter plot showing the responses from the full data set:

    chart_1 (4)

    The outliers–the few folks who skewed the data with their impressively high reading totals–make it hard to see what’s really going in the larger group. So here’s a look at the data, excluding the 208 readers who reported reading more than 151 books in 2013 (readers within one standard deviation of the mean).

    chart_2 (2)


    Question 2: Did you read any ebooks in 2013?

    Number of Responses: 2692

    chart_2 (1)


    Questions 3 & 4:

    What percentage of your 2013 reading was print books? What percentage was ebooks? 

    Responses: 2427

    chart_1 (2)

    On average, Book Riot readers did 69.34% of their 2013 reading in print and 28.17% of their reading digitally.

    642 readers (26.45%) read exclusively in print; 71 readers (2.93%) read exclusively in ebook format.

    Let’s Talk About It

    A recent study by the Pew Research Internet Project shows  comprehensive data about Americans’ reading habits and serves as a solid point of comparison.

    The Pew study reveals that among all American adults, the average number of books read in 2013 was 12, and the median was 5. It’s important to note that Pew headlines this result with “The typical American read 5 books in the last 12 months.” Book Riot respondents’ average was 75 with a median of 50. Any way you slice that, it’s a huge difference.

    Book Riot readers who took this survey are also ahead of the curve in their adoption of ebooks. According to the Pew study, 3 in 10 adults read an ebook last year, and the number jumped to almost half when looking only at adults under age 30. The number of Riot readers who read any ebooks in 2013 was 74.9%, more than twice the full-study average and notably higher than the under-age-30 average.

    The differences between Pew’s national averages and the Book Riot averages are likely a product of the fact that the Book Riot audience is comprised primarily of readers in the 18-35 age range who are college educated. They have free time for reading and disposable income to spend on books, and they are more likely to have access to technology. All of these points make them different from the typical American.

    None of this is terribly surprising. It makes sense that people who frequent a book-related website and consider themselves to be serious readers have reading habits that are markedly different from national averages. What do you think? Any surprises? Any questions?


    Check out other Riot polls:

    Book Riot Readers’ 50 Favorite Novels

    The 25 Most-Hated Books (by Book Riot Readers)

    19 Books You’ve Been Meaning to Read FOREVER

    20 Books You Pretend to Have Read

    Top 10 Books You’re Embarrassed to Admit You’ve Read

    20 Most-Loved Literary Characters

    Are These the 13 Most Underrated Books?

    20 Books You Love to Give as Gifts

    Your 25 Favorite Authors of Color


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