When it comes to reading habits across generations, there are similarities—but also surprising differences.
The 5 generations—Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation—have different life experiences and expectations for everything from marriage to work to entertainment.
But what about their reading habits?
Best By The Numbers set out to answer this question. We created the following infographic packed with facts and statistics collected from a number of sources over the last several years.
Here are some key takeaways from our infographic.
- Coronavirus has led Gen Z to increase their reading more than any other generation
- While Millennials read more books than other generations, the Silent Generation spend the most time reading each day
- Every generation has a preference for physical books over digital ones.
- While Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation find their books from bestseller lists, Gen Z find them on social media.
- Gen Z are less likely to read for fun the older they get
- Millennials are using public libraries more than any other generation
- Gen X are “news junkies”—they read more online news each day than the other generations.
What does this all mean?
It’s clear that every generation likes to read, even the tech-obsessed Millennials and Gen Z. If you assumed that all younger people prefer their Facebook feed or TikTok videos over a good book, you’d probably be wrong.
Although the coronavirus has been extremely challenging for small publishers in particular, there’s going to be a strong appetite for reading books and online content well into the future.
Check out our infographic below for more insights into the reading habits of the different generations.
Comparing the reading habits of 5 generations
Your reading habits can help sharpen your mind and open your imagination. Reading fits like a glove with your personal development. It is also one of the best ways to learn anything.
We hear a lot about Millennials and Baby Boomers and their idiosyncrasies. Gen Z, Gen X and the Silent Generation are also subject to a lot of stereotypes.
When it comes to reading, Best By The Numbers wanted to look beyond conventional wisdom, and look at the data and facts. And the actual reading habits of the 5 different generations may surprise you.
Let’s delve a little deeper into some of our key findings.
What’s your generation?
First, here’s a breakdown of the 5 generation groups, so you can see where you currently fit.
In 2020, if you’re aged between 5 and 25, you’re in Generation Z. Millennials are 26 to 40. Generation X are 41 to 55, and Baby Boomers are 56-75 years old. The Silent Generation are aged 76+.
Although these age ranges are a little arbitrary, these are the generally accepted ranges.
Which generation reads the most
You may be surprised to learn that Millennials read more books than any other generation. They are also the most likely to have visited a library over the last 12 months.
The fiction genres preferred by Millenials include general adult fiction (46%), classic literature (25%), erotica (15%) and urban lit (10%). Health/fitness/wellness (27%) and parenting (22%) are their preferred non-fiction topics.
However, it’s actually the Silent Generation that reads for the longest each day. On average, they read for 35 minutes every day. And for 35%, their book of choice is the Bible.
In terms of fiction, the Silent Generation prefer mystery/suspense (71%) and historical fiction (52%).
So, it seems that the older you get, the longer you read for each day. The extra free time in retirement could be a deciding factor here.
Print books vs eBooks
We’ve all had this conversation with someone. Do you prefer to read “real” books or eBooks?
Surprisingly, in our hi-tech society, printed books are still preferred across all five generations—and by some margin.
Next time you are at the airport, look around and see how many people have an actual book on their laps. The statistics speak for themselves.
In the past year, 65% of US adults have read a print book, and only 28% an eBook. The Baby Boomers are near this average benchmark, reading 64% print books and 24% eBooks.
Meanwhile, the tech-savvy Millennials are knocking print books out of the park. They read more printed books at 72%, compared to 35% of eBooks.
Who would have thought that?
Not surprisingly, the Silent Generation are the least likely to read an eBook. Only 19% have done so in the past 12 months compared to between 24% to 35% in other generations.
What’s more, the Silent Generation have cottoned to audiobooks even less than eBooks. Only 9% of the Silent Generation have listened to an audiobook in the past 12 months. This is less than half the audiobook use of the other generations.
Reading news is a different story
When it comes to reading the news, all generations prefer reading it online.
This makes sense. The internet is accessible and portable, and physical newspapers can’t keep up.
Let’s face it. Surfing on the internet is as common as brushing your teeth now, and people prefer to read the news in their own time.
However, when you look at the stats in more detail, you can see a definite generation divide here. The impact of the internet is clear.
76% of Gen Z, Millennials, and Gen X prefer to read the news online. Only 8% opt to read an actual newspaper.
However, Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation are more open to reading newspapers. 43% still prefer to read the news online, while a sizable 32% are sticking with a traditional newspaper.
And which generation reads the most news? That would be Gen X. They read an average of 54 minutes of online news per day.
Returning the favor?
One interesting insight from our research was that Baby Boomers like to return the reading favor.
In the UK, 89% of parents who were read to by their parents now read regularly to their children. In comparison, only 72% of parents read regularly to their children when their parents did not read regularly to them.
The coronavirus effect
The coronavirus has upended a lot of people’s lives.
But what has it done to our reading habits?
We found that the coronavirus has led Millenials to read more than the other generation. 40% of Millenials read more books than before the outbreak, as did 34% of Gen Z.
The Library Lovers
We know that Millennials love reading books, but their appetite for reading doesn’t stop there.
Libraries are still in fashion with the Millennials. At 53%, they are the generation that has visited libraries the most in the last 12 months.
Whereas the Silent Generation doesn’t fancy libraries as much at 35%.
A snapshot of French readers
As French readers age, they are more likely to read for a hobby and less likely to read for work.
If you look at the youngest generation, 40% of French Gen Z read for a hobby, and only 23% read for work. By the time the French become Baby Boomers, 89% read for pleasure, and only a tiny 2% read for work.
Another interesting insight is that older French readers are more likely to have read erotic books.
The sexiness starts with Generation Z at 44%. But by the time French readers hit the Silent Generation, 65% of them have already read erotic books.