The Internet revolutionized reading in the 21st century, something everybody realizes now. The numbers alone speak volumes: 11 years ago about 22% of Americans chose the Internet to get their news, but in 2013, that number had risen to 39%. The statistics are revealing, and attest to the fact that e-books, news, entertainment, and communication are all taking place online.
Online, tech-based reading is on the rise
According to Kathryn Zickuhr, Internet researcher at the Pew Research Center, 55% of Americans own a smartphone and 24% an e-reader.
E-reading is a trend that continues to grow. In 2011, only 16% of the American participants in the Pew study read an ebook, but in 2012 that number rose to 23%. Print book reading dropped from 72% to 67% from 2011 to 2012. Again, there’s a strong but gradual tendency to read more ebooks than paper ones.
Rituals that are intimacy-based favor print book reading
While traditional reading rituals like reading with a child or with another person are still mostly likely to be done with print books, participants in the study who commuted regularly confirmed that ebooks are their preferred medium for reading when travelling. Not only does an e-reader have the advantage of letting you keep a wider selection of books available, it allows you to access new books easily and quickly.
The future of libraries
Libraries are not dying, and many people still visit them. In fact, 73% of the people surveyed visit a library with the express purpose of borrowing books.
What’s been noticeably absent from libraries is the time spent in them. People generally no longer browse shelves as frequently. They find the books in the library’s website, reserve them on line, and go pick them up, a time-saving approach that librarians say is on the rise.
As the purpose of libraries shifts, their cultural role is becoming even stronger. People regard libraries as community spaces for ongoing cultural expression and communication. Lectures, cultural events, and meetings are all part of the many activities taking place at libraries today, giving them a role in peoples’ lives beyond studying and reading books.
Reader expectations changing
Online content is changing the expectations of readers. The print book is not going to be replaced any time soon, but libraries are already feeling the need to adjust to a more tech-based environment.
In fact, the survey illustrated that people are keen to use tech services like pre-loaded ebooks, or classes on how to use e-readers. Most modern libraries have online catalogs that let people borrow library-owned e-books, and even the smallest library is striving to offer more automated and online services to the public.
As we move into a digital era of content dissemination, the need for libraries and other cultural institutions to keep up with technology will not decrease. Libraries that stubbornly refuse to offer online facilities like ebook borrowing, free access to databases, and digitized books will run the risk of being neglected and forgotten. Technology is changing the reading expectations of modern readers, and society – and its libraries – has to respond accordingly and promptly.
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