Discuss this: Fewer young people reading, and what it means for the future.

A recent report from the Kaiser Family Foundation reveals some interesting observations about reading trends among children. According to Publishers Weekly, the study indicates that while young people age eight to 18 are spending less time with printed material overall, and the number of those who describe them as “readers” overall has fallen, about the same percentage of those surveyed identify themselves as book readers, and they are spend slightly more time reading than young people did in 1999.  The study also shows that young people are consuming digital media at a higher rate than ever, and also that more of them own their own cell phones and digital devices.

What does this say about the future? Will these increasingly digitally adept young people—those that love books and love reading—carry their love for reading into adulthood? Will the next wave of adult consumers expect to receive and experience their books in a digital format as a matter of course?

What about the decrease in young people who identify themselves as readers? With fewer of them reading than ever, what will the authors and publishing industry of tomorrow need to do to stay both solvent and culturally viable? Will emerging forms of digital entertainment and education become a new source of employment for writers and other content providers? What will this mean for the printed book?

Let’s discuss this today, you and I. Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

n653213921_1671825_1056996Matt Staggs is a literary publicist and the proprietor of Deep Eight LLC, a boutique publicity agency utilizing the best publicity practices from the worlds of traditional media and evolving social technologies. He has worked in the fields of public relations and journalism for almost a decade. In addition to his work as a publicist, Matt is a book reviewer and writer whose work appears in both print and web publications.

3 thoughts on “Discuss this: Fewer young people reading, and what it means for the future.

  1. I think this is another indication that digital publishing is the wave of the future. Kids not reading is not a new issue. It has been discussed for decades.

    The issue now is how to make digital publishing affordable and exciting for both the children and their parents. It will be interesting to see what others think.

    Cassie Armstrong

  2. I can see the day when most kids read off their cellphone or PSP or Nintendo or ipod or whatever gadget they got in their pocket, cause that's where they find stories that are relevant to them. Digital publishing takes a large chunk of the cost of publishing away, there's still costs, but you can publish to any number of sites for nothing, granted smashwords and the wattpad and the like don't carry the same regard as having your book on the kindle library or whatever, the possibility is there.

    If I had a better memory I would link to the article i saw that showed that kids actually read more today than before, just the reading they do is in the form of txt messages or signs or other non-book forms. This needs to be utilized by writers more than it is. Actual printed books risk becoming like vinyl albums, that is things that grandma has got boxes and boxes of and nobody knows how to use anymore. I mean, the metaphor is not complete, but the risk is there, not in ten years, but twenty? who could really predict with any accuracy where literature will be when we have the option of having brain implants and all that the future teases us with?

    Is that too much? I should blog again rather than fill up everyones else's forums with my rants…

  3. Maybe the problem is simply asking kids to identify themselves as "readers." My nephew is one of the biggest nerds in the world, he just doesn't know it yet. He reads graphic novels from Scholastic Books and enjoys them, but I doubt he would do something so uncool as identify himself as a "reader," despite the influence of his very nerdy uncle.

    Do I believe the children are the future (cue Whitney Houston now) of reading? They can't help but be, and they'll do some reading but not significantly more or less.

    One nice thing about the book as a business model. Unlike a video game or movie or television show, is that it doesn't require a large number of paid people to produce a book, likewise it doesn't require as large a number of sales to remain afloat or be dubbed successful. Stephen King sells a million copies in the US and it's something to brag about, even though it only represents a fraction of a percent of the total population of the country. There are three hundred million people in America, and some books only sell a few thousand copies, yet their authors continued to be published over and over.

    So long as books manage to keep a low overhead I think they will stick around in one form or another for a very long time.

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