In the recently released How Much Information? 2009 study of information consumption by Americans, Roger Bonn and James Short of the Global Information Industry Center at UC San Diego dispel the myth that reading is on the decline. In fact, it tripled between 1980 and 2008:
The use of different media has changed dramatically over time. It is a cliché that reading is in decline. But on the other hand we get considerable information from the Internet, which is a heavy print medium. Do we really read less?
We show this evolution in Figure 6 Evolution of Reading. Conventional print media has fallen from 26 percent of INFOW (words consumed) in 1960 to 9 percent in 2008. However, this has been more than counterbalanced by the rise of the Internet and local computer programs, which now provide 27 percent of INFOW. Conventional print provides an additional 9 percent. In other words, reading as a percentage of our information consumption has increased in the last 50 years, if we use words themselves as the unit of measurement.