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Good Question: Why Are We Reading More Books?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- With all of the media available to us via television, smartphones and the Internet these days, reading books is still a favorite pastime.

According to surveys, how much we read books has remained constant over the years and, in some cases, increased.

In the 1950s, Gallup surveys show around 20 percent of Americans were presently reading a book. By the early 90s, the percentage jumped to 37 percent.

In December 2011, Pew Research found 44 percent of adults were reading a book the day before they were contacted.

Eighty-eight percent of younger Americans (ages 16-29) also report they've read at least one book in the past year.

"I think people still like to be connected to stories," said Leann Suchy, an adjunct professor of library and information science at St. Catherine University. "We have a big story-telling tradition."

The typical American reads five to seven books a year. Just under half (48 percent) buy those books, 24 percent borrow them from family and friends and 14 percent use the library.

According to Random House, 42 percent of those who buy books do so online, 15 percent at bookstore chains, six percent at independent booksellers and six percent at mass merchandisers.

"The core of us hasn't changed. We just might read differently, we might pick up different types of books, we might get them in different formats, but we're still readers," Suchy said.

Within the Hennepin County libraries, some of the most popular books now ones that have been adapted into movies and television shows like "Gone Girl," "The Fault in our Stars," and the popular PBS series, "The Roosevelts."

"Anything that hits public consciousness as a good story in the media, people come back to the book. They also want to read the book," said Gail Mueller, Hennepin County Library's Collection and Technical Services Manager.

Library use is popular nowadays as 63 percent of people are reported to carry a library card. There are more public libraries than there are McDonalds in the United States.

"I feel like I have more access to books or my children do than when I was younger," said Robbinsdale mother Brooke Dodd.

E-readers -- like the Nook, Kindle or even iPad -- have become more common as well. Pew Research found 20 percent of all people say they've read an e-book in the past year.

Print books still remain most popular. Only four percent of people say they read e-books only.

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