In recent years, book fanatics have analyzed movie adaptations of favorites like Lord of the Rings, Twilight, Life of Pi, Harry Potter, the Chronicles of Narnia and The Invention of Hugo Cabret.  Book adaptations are nothing new, of course. But it’s interesting that they remain so popular in a time when “no one reads anymore.” It’s not uncommon to hear anecdotal evidence of “the death of books” or assumptions about the attention span of people in an Internet age. Yet if Hollywood can still bank on the popularity of a book to drive movie sales, books must still hold their place in the American heart. Books

BOOKS OR MOVIES?

Books do remain popular—and widely read books often get turned into movies, which likely makes the books even more commercially popular.  Consider The Hunger Games, one of last year’s biggest movies, and one of the decade’s bestselling novels. Fewer than one-in-five (15%) American adults (18 years or older) say they read the tale about a girl trying to survive in a dystopian future. That is roughly half the one-third of American adults who saw the movie (33%). That might seem like a significant difference, but the book also began as a young adult series while the movie was marketed to appeal to a wider target. Still, the audience crossed over: four-in-ten adults who have seen The Hunger Games have also read the book.

Another teen and young adult book series has also led to one of the biggest hit movie series of all time. If you haven’t read them or seen the movies, you certainly know someone who has, and a teenager who has probably done both. The book series, of course, is the Twilight saga. About one out of seven (14%) have seen the most recent movie, Breaking Dawn Pt. 2, and a similar number (12%) have read the book Twilight. True to form, four-in-ten adults who saw the movie also read the book.

DEMOGRAPHICS OF BOOK READERS

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the primary segment that has read The Hunger Games and Twilight are women, since both books feature a young, female character in their lead role. Just one in ten American men have read The Hunger Games, compared with one in five females. And of the 12% of all American adults who have read Twilight, nearly nine in ten (86%) of that number are female. The Hunger Games also tends to skew younger: nearly one-third (28%) of Americans aged 18-28 have read the book. Similarly, one in five Mosaics have read Twilight.

Women also accounted for a significant portion of the readership of 50 Shades of Grey, which turned dubious critical response into one of 2012’s biggest publishing success stories. The book with explicit sexual content trends higher among older readers, with one in ten of both Busters (29-47 year-olds) and Boomers (48-66) who say they’ve read the book. The same proportion of practicing Christians (9%) have read 50 Shades as among American adults (9%). Among women, 16% have read the scandalous bestseller, meaning more of them have read 50 Shades of Grey than The Hobbit (12%).

THE GOOD BOOK

What about the biggest book of all: the Bible? The perennial bestseller is still a major focal point for many book publishers. And in America, it is still widely read—one in five of all American adults have read the Bible from start to finish. While it might not be shocking to discover well over half (61%) of evangelical Christians have read the Bible from start to finish, it may be surprising that nearly one in six (18%) of people with a faith other than Christianity and about one in eleven (9%) people with no faith claimed to have done the same.

Approximately one-third of politically conservative adults say they have read the Bible, compared with one-tenth of political liberals. Nearly one-third (29%) of black adults say they’ve read the Bible from start to finish, more than Hispanic adults (22%) and white adults (19%). Boomers are the group with the highest likelihood to have read the Bible from start to finish, with nearly one-quarter (23%) reporting they had done so.

KEY POINTS

1. Americans are increasingly craving a multi-media way to enjoy their favorite stories.

2. Despite the emerging digital landscape, the research also suggests book reading is not dying out.

3. Another unmistakable pattern in the research is the power of stories—namely, fiction—in propelling the publishing industry.  Perhaps this indicates that Americans are hungry for media that provides some sort of escapism from stressful and uninspired lives.

4. Finally, the level of engagement with the Bible is enlightening; Christians should not assume non-Christians are categorically unfamiliar with their sacred scripture.

[Source:  “The Books Americans Are Reading – And What That Reveals About Us.”  Barna Group.  4 Jun. 2013.  Web.  12 Jun. 2013.]