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booksAs a person who has loved reading from the time I could sound out “See Spot run,” I found a recent Barna survey on adult reading habits to be, well, worth reading.

In a digital world where countless items are posted online every day, it’s good to know that some people still read books: the kind you can hold in your hand, even if they’re on an e-reader.

Not surprisingly, older folks read more books than their younger counterparts: almost a quarter of “elders” (people born before 1945) read more than 15 books per year, and another 14 percent read 10-15 books. Just 10 percent of millennials (born 1984-2002) read more than 15 books per year, and many of those are for school.

Economic status as well as age plays a role: more than half of people Barna classifies as “upscale” (income of $70,000 or more plus a four-year degree) read five or more books per year, while just 16 percent of “downscale” adults (income of $20,000 or less and no college) read five or more books per year. Nearly half of all “downscale” folk read zero books.

Women are more avid readers than men: 32 percent of men don’t read any books, compared to 18 percent of women. Forty percent of women read five or more books per year, while just 28 percent of men maintain the same pace.

Most adults report reading mainly for pleasure (64 percent), and fiction (53 percent) is slightly preferred over non-fiction. Women show a stronger preference for fiction (63 percent), while men give a slight edge to non-fiction.

The biggest surprise to me is where readers obtain their books. I would have thought online booksellers would dominate by now, but only 10 percent of books are bought online, while 33 percent come from brick-and-mortar bookstores. Eleven percent of books are borrowed from friends, and 24 percent from libraries. Hardbacks and paperbacks are still the favorite, though 15 percent of books are now read in an e-reader format.

The article notes that reading expands the mind, not only with new ideas, but by actually increasing our intellectual abilities and giving us insight to understand others. We may love the social interaction of Facebook, but for personal development, there’s nothing like a real book.

Tony Cartledge

About Tony Cartledge

Tony W. Cartledge is contributing editor of Baptists Today, in addition to teaching Old Testament studies and various ministry courses at Campbell University Divinity School. He formerly served as editor of the Biblical Recorder, newspaper of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, and as a pastor for 26 years. Tony is a graduate of the University of Georgia, Southeastern Seminary and Duke University, where he earned a Ph.D. He is the author of several books including the Smyth & Helwys commentary on First and Second Samuel and Telling Stories: Tall Tales and Deep Truths and several Bible study books for Nurturing Faith.