Study: In an E-book Era, Most Pastors Prefer Hard Copies of Books

A new report from Barna Group that examines the book buying and reading habits of pastors says most pastors still prefer to read hard copies of books despite an increase in the use of digital reading devices in recent years.

Nearly half of pastors now use a device that serves as an e-reader, an article containing highlights from the more than 80-page report states, and that number has nearly tripled in the last two years. But despite increasing e-book sales and decreasing print sales, more than half of pastors still prefer hardcover books to paper backs or e-books.

Pastors collectively purchase between 8 million and 13 million books per year, and each of them buys an average of 3.8 books each month. In comparison, only 29 percent of all American adults buy more than 10 books each year.

"From the Barna study, at least among pastors as a market segment, concerns about the 'death of books' don't hold much water," the article says. "Pastors are still reading at incredibly high rates – and they're not only reading, but they're also buying books amounting to millions of purchases each year."

The article also says book stores should note that pastors are just as likely to buy from them as they are to buy online, though publishers and retailers should recognize the growing popularity of e-books and the value of having an online marketing strategy that utilizes social media.

So what books are pastors buying? When asked what kind of books they read recently, those on the topics of spirituality, theology and leadership were mentioned most often, followed by other texts on topics such as prayer, history and cultural trends. Fiction books are slightly less popular among pastors than they are among the rest of the population, and about half of pastors are reading biographies and one-third are reading business texts.

The single most important factor for pastors looking to purchase a ministry-related book is the topic, researchers say, followed by the author of the text and whether or not the book was recommended by someone. Most pastors are also willing to give out their own book recommendations, the study found, as more than 90 percent of pastors do so from the pulpit at least once a year.

Duane Brooks, pastor of Tallowood Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, told The Christian Post via email that he tries to read about 30 books each year and will usually recommend three or four of them from the pulpit annually. Most recently, he says, he recommended You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church…and Rethinking Faith by David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group.

"I'm looking for books which meet people at the point of a concern and hopefully bring the light of scripture on the issue at hand," said Brooks about the books he recommends.

The Barna Group report, titled "Pastors + Books," is the result of three nationwide surveys, each of which involved interviews with a minimum of 600 senior pastors of Protestant churches.

Barna Group has been conducting research "focused on the intersection of faith and culture" since 1984.

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