Key Industry Trends
The education industry's methods of teaching relate directly to the reading habits
of the mass population. This, coupled with the demands of work-related reading define the
key factors that must be considered when analyzing the reading market.
A myriad of surveys, reports, panels, forecasts and studies are being commissioned to sort out and predict the trends in America's reading habits. The most reliable of them conclude that while the practices and formats of reading are changing dramatically, the quest for information in the form of written word is thriving.
Certainly, the "delivery mechanism" has changed. There is now an abundance of online information, CD-ROM capabilities, searchable databases, interactive resources, multimedia books, chat rooms and virtual reality adventures.
The medium of reading has always undergone evolution.
Just as the advent of Gutenberg's printing press did not signal the doom of handwritten messages, so computers and videos have not wiped out reading and writing. In much the same way that movable type encouraged the spread of literacy, word processing has become routine for many (including for management level executives).
Reading and Educational Level and Income
Even with countless multimedia options, books remain the number one source for individuals seeking new information. The best example comes from electronic media itself. From 1991 to 1995, sales of books on teaching computer related or Internet skills soared from 9 million (1.1 percent of the market) to 22 million (2.2 percent).
Serious readers, those who read 20 or more books a year, tend to be college graduates with income levels over $100,000. This data is not new. For many years, the market for leisure reading has been held by the above average income earnings with a high level of education.
Westerners, comparatively to the rest of the world, are book enthusiasts. The data also suggests that women read more than men. The 35 to 49 year old group reads the most, but individuals 45 to 54 buy more books. Those 65 and older that account for approximately 17 percent of the book market may be the ones with the most time and disposable income to spend on books. As the population grows older into the retirement age bracket, the market for books will prosper. Bookstores are growing and evolving along with other retail market outlets.
Reading and Young Americans
Younger Americans buy only about 4 percent of books sold. This generation is more involved with electronic text in the new media. Children, teenagers and young adults spend endless hours on the Internet writing and reading.
This market is bored with old-fashioned e-mail messages; children nowadays prefer synchronous chat and social networking.
Through interactive online games such as World of Warcraft, Second Life and Everquest, young people have transformed the solitary activity of reading into a highly social medium. Social networking sites such as Facebook and Myspace have also raised the reading level with a rich supply of socially relevant notice boards, messaging and group games. Even the process of shopping has become far more information rich with many teenagers choosing to shop online at places such as Amazon and Ebay.
The concern over Americans reading fewer books, however, is not wholly unfounded. American Demographics magazine analyzes numerous studies and reports. They reveal clear shifts in patterns of reading, especially among young adults. One poll showed that those who did not read a single book in a year doubled from 1975 to 1990 (from approximately 8% to 16%). This value rose to 43% in 2002 (National Endownment Arts report 2004) and 25% in 2006 according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll.
Traditional Reading - is it dying?
Traditional reading is on the wane but, as for communication with words, people today are more engaged than ever before. The issue has become one of choosing the preferred mode of expression. The next generations are hungrier for knowledge than before and with the spread of electronic media, the new generations will probably be as literate as any other.
Students now have increasing access to vast information through popular search engines
such as google.com and MSN live. Deeper information is being incorporated on the web
such as free encyclopedias (wikipedia.org) and full journal articles.
Now, partial or entire book contents are available for preview through
services such as Amazon "look inside" and the books at books.google.com.
It should be noted that these sources impose limitations of the amount of material that can be viewed in order to protect the copyright holders.
The digitization of free or public domain archives is increasing at a rapid
rate and this information is being made available on a free or subscription basis
by government and private organizations. For example, the Gutenberg project has
made over 20,000 copyright free books available through their website at www.gutenberg.org.
The following site provides a free searchable catalog on online books encluding online
reading of the entire texts freeonlinebooks.org.
Even corporations are making information available in an unprecidented fashion, for example the free online study guides at www.sparknotes.com and
the free newsletters on reading ability at this site.
Reading and Educational Ability
Educational ability is a factor that actively influences the abilities of a workforce. The National Center on the Educational Quality of the Workforce found that productivity increases for each of the following factors:
In the manufacturing sector:
In the non-manufacturing sector:
- 10% increase in the average education of all workers is associated with a productivity increase of 8.6%
- 10% increase in hours results in a productivity increase of 5.6%
- 10% increase in capital stock results in a productivity increase of 3.4%.
- 10% increase in the average education of all workers is associated with a productivity increase of 11%
- 10% increase in hours results in an increase of 6.3%
- 10% increase in capital stock results in an increase of 3.9% .
In a study on the economic benefits of the workplace, 98% of employers reported that
employees gained at least one skill and there was at least one organizational benefit
(with Workplace Education Programs that improved fundamental skills such as reading, writing and arithmetic).
The National Association of Manufacturers 2001 members survey found that employers in various manufacturing industries offered these programs:
The 2000 survey "Voices from Main Street: Assessing the State of Small Business Workforce Skills" found that 40% of small businesses were aware of local workforce skills improvement programs and 38% of small businesses participated in local workforce skills improvement programs.
- 7.0% of employers offered advanced math education opportunities
- 8.6% basic reading and writing
- 9.3% GED
- 13.3% diversity awareness
- 14.5% ESL
- 15.8% basic math
- 19.0% verbal communication
- 19.7% formal apprenticeship programs
- 22.9% interpersonal skills
- 25.1% problem solving
- 28.7% customer service
- 33.5% teamwork/leadership
- 37.1% certification training for various technical degrees/licenses
- 39.6% continuing education for technical/professional personnel
- 54.3% computer skills
- 60.6% tuition reimbursement for undergraduate or graduate programs
- 64.2% specific skills for a particular job.
Small businesses that participated in local workforce skills improvement programs worked with the following agencies:
- 37% with community colleges
- 29% with vocational schools
- 24% with public schools
- 15% with private colleges or universities
- 10% with business associations
- 7% with private schools
- 2% with government agencies
- 2% with private consultants and training agencies
- 6% with other agencies.