4 Ways to Market to People Who Read Books – and Those Who Don’t

I’m confident public librarians have a good sense of their community’s reading habits: who’s coming into the library, what types of books they’re reading and why. But it’s always good to see hard numbers.

Pew Research Center released two reports this fall, one on trends in book reading and another covering nonreaders.

As always, demographic studies such as this provide useful intelligence for public library marketing. So here are a few of the findings as well as some thoughts about how to apply the data to marketing strategy.


1. Promote Reading Options for Mobile Devices

More Americans are reading books on tablets and cellphones, even as dedicated e-reader use has remained stableThe number of Americans who say they’ve read a book in the last 12 months has remained constant since 2012, at 74%. What is changing is how they are reading them.

The share of Americans who say they’ve read a print book has remained unchanged since 2012, but Pew notes the share of people reading on tablets and phones is growing. Since 2011, the use of tablets has tripled while the use of smartphones has doubled. This presents an excellent opportunity to promote your e-book collection. Consider a marketing campaign targeting these readers to make them aware the library offers e-books and to help them understand how they can download them to their devices. You may want to create a video or invite library users to a hands-on workshop.

2. Book Lovers as Library Advocates

College graduates are four times more likely than those who didn’t go to college to read e-books (and twice as likely to read a print book). Eighty percent of 18-29 year olds say they had read a book in the last year, compared to 67% of those 65 and older. And women are more likely than men to read books, and more likely to read print.

Book lovers are our best customers, and they could be some of our loudest cheerleaders as well. Develop programs to reach out to these groups and encourage them to become library advocates.

3. Why People Read

Pew also asked respondents why they read generally – not only books but magazines, newspapers and online content. Eighty-four percent of Americans say they research specific topics, a 10% increase over 2011. And while 82% of Americans say they read to stay on top of current events, almost half say they do so nearly every day. Reading for pleasure is still very popular, with 80% of Americans saying this is why they pick up a book.

Engage these readers with contests and games. For example, use your Facebook page to promote current event quizzes.

4. Who Are the Non-Book Readers?

Pew also looked more closely at the 26% of Americans who say they haven’t read a book at all, in any format, and found several demographic traits that correlate with non-book reading.

Adults with a high school degree or less, and those with an annual income of less than $30,000 are more likely to be non-book readers. These same demographic traits also apply to those who have never been to a library.

Older adults ages 50 and older are somewhat less likely than adults under 50 to have not read a book in the last year. And geography also made a difference, as adults in rural areas are less likely than those in urban areas to have read a book.

Public libraries should find creative ways to connect with nonreaders. One idea is to partner with local leaders and charity groups to bring the library into the community.

Be sure to check out both Pew reports for more details on their findings.






About Tiffany McClary

Tiffany McClary is the Director of Communications, Marketing & Outreach for the New Jersey State Library. She coordinates marketing and public relations initiatives in order to enhance the reputation of the State Library, and promote the value of NJ libraries and the services and programs that they provide to residents.