How often do Australian teens read for pleasure?

The Teen Reading survey asked young people a few questions about how frequently and how much they read in their free time. We were specifically interested in recreational reading, not school or homework. Here’s an early analysis of what we found when we asked how often they read for fun in an average week.



If this seems a lot of teens who don’t read much, we should keep in mind that this statistic only refers to free time, long form reading – study and social media not included!



What do teens think about reading on digital devices?

The Teen Reading study asked a number of questions about young people’s reading preferences and experiences, in both “open fields” in our survey and in interviews. Teens were able to tell us in their own words about how they felt about  reading in general and about reading long form texts using digital platforms. An interim, single researcher coding of the question “How do you feel about reading on digital devices?” yielded the following breakdown:

  • Around 63% said that they preferred reading paper books, or that they disliked reading on digital devices
  • Around 12-13% leaned towards paper books but had some positive things to say about eReading on devices

“I like reading real books in my hand … but with eBooks on small devices, I can carry multiple books easily without worrying about bending pages in my bag…”

  • Around 12% preferred eBooks, mainly because they found it easier to search for them, or felt that it was easier to get hold of them free of charge

“I read a lot on devices because it is easier than having to buy every book you read”

  • Around 13% didn’t provide an answer or said that they really didn’t like reading at all.



It hurts my eyes (but only when reading)

iPads and other LCD tablets are widely used in educational settings. They are ‘do it all’ devices which can perform many functions. They can be cameras, music players, web browsers, as well as displaying text word processing or notetaking software, or in book apps such as Kindle, iBooks, Wattpad, BorrowBox, and so on.

Tablets are great for research, gameplay, recording and creating content, as well as being platforms for reading. Their responsive touch-screen interface is intuitive enough for even toddlers to use them for animated video and simple games. On the other hand, eReaders such as the Kindle, Sony eReader, and Kobo, are single function devices – they are meant simply to read on!

Adolescents participating in the Teen Reading survey were much more likely to have regular access to a tablet rather than an eReader. Many of the comments made by teens highlighted their iPad/Tablet’s attractiveness for playing games on, but also indicated that they used their tablet in both recreational and school settings.

But when asked about barriers to reading more on devices, those with access to a dedicated eReader were half as likely to report eyestrain than tablet users.

This is probably because eReaders use electronic ink, specifically designed to mimic the appearance of print on paper, and studies have shown that they are perceived by adult users to be as readable as print. They reflect ambient light rather than emitting light. On the other hand, iPads use backlighting as a screen technology. They look very much like computer and video screens, and emit light waves which, as with other kinds of screens, has been associated with visual fatigue.

Perhaps the added dynamism and different eye-tracking movements required by linear media and gameplay allows users to ignore that tiredness more readily than when reading!