April 5, 2012

Why people like to read

In our recent report on the rise of e-reading, we asked those who had read a book in the past 12 months to tell us what they like most about book reading. They gave a host of reasons that ranged from the highly practical to the sublime.

  • 26% of those who had read a book in the past 12 months said that what they enjoyed most was learning, gaining knowledge, and discovering information.
  • 15% cited the pleasures of escaping reality, becoming immersed in another world, and the enjoyment they got from using their imaginations.
  • 12% said they liked the entertainment value of reading, the drama of good stories, the suspense of watching a good plot unfold.
  • 12% said they enjoyed relaxing while reading and having quiet time.
  • 6% liked the variety of topics they could access via reading and how they could find books that particularly interested them.
  • 4% said they enjoy finding spiritual enrichment through reading and expanding their worldview.
  • 3% said they like being mentally challenged by books.
  • 2% cited the physical properties of books – their feel and smell – as a primary pleasure.
  • In their own words, respondents were eloquent and touching. One respondent noted: “I am an English teacher, so I read to save my sanity from grading essays.”

Those who talked about quiet entertainment tended toward phrases like “a stress-free escape,” “a nice way to relax,” “I read because it’s not work,” “diverting, entertaining and educational,” and “It draws me away from reality.” That was echoed by a respondent who said reading “takes you away, like a movie in your head.” One wryly said he liked reading “because it helps me with my temper and relaxes me.”

Those who talked about personal enrichment used phrases like “being able to experience so many times, places, and events.” Others expressed pleasure at living a “life of the mind.”

For many, reading was a proud lifestyle choice: “It’s better for me to imagine things in my head than watch them on TV.”

One compelling summary thought came from a respondent who declared: “I love being able to get outside myself.”

Visit our report for more on the rise of e-reading and the general reading habits of Americans; and browse through the host of resources on the new libraries section of our site: libraries.pewinternet.org.