Today the National Endowment for the Arts released a new report, "Reading on the Rise," that suggests that the decades long slide in the number of adult Americans who read literature (novels, short stories, poetry, and plays) has recently reversed itself and is beginning to rise. For the first time in the 25 years NEA has been studying our reading habits, our love for literature appears to have been rekindled.
It's a broad-based trend. Between 2002 and 2008 the percentage of young adults (18-24 years old) who read literature rose 9 percent. Hispanic Americans, Black Americans, and Whites all showed increased rates of literary reading between 2002 and 2008.
Still, there's much room for growth. Only a slight majority of American adults (113 million) read any literature in 2008, and a few more (119 million) read any book that was not related to work or school. The reading of poetry and plays continued their downward trends.
The full report (only a dozen or so pages, with plenty of charts, graphs, and photos) is, ahem, on my list of things to read. The PDF version may be downloaded for free and read in digital format. BTW, 15 percent of all American adults read literature online in 2008. Evidently, reading literature in audio book format was not part of this study. I searched for "audio" in the full text and retrieved nothing.