59 Percent of Bible Readers Still Prefer a Print Copy, But There’s a Generation Gap

Written by on May 14, 2021


Americans who read the Bible still prefer to read a print copy over a digital version – but attitudes are quickly changing.

That’s according to a new survey by the American Bible Society and Barna that found 59 percent of Bible users in the United States prefer a print version over various digital versions or an audio Bible. The findings are included in the 2021 State of the Bible survey.

Although a majority still favor a physical copy, that’s down from 65 percent in 2020 and 72 percent in 2019. In 2016, 81 percent preferred a print copy.

The survey found a major generation gap in preferences.

Print copies are favored by a majority of elders (84 percent), baby boomers (72 percent) and Generation X members (56 percent). They are less popular among Millennials (47 percent) and those in Generation Z (44 percent).

A majority of Millennials and those in Generation Z prefer either a Bible app, a website/computer program, or an audio Bible.

“Smartphone or tablet use of the Bible among younger generations is increasingly popular,” an American Bible Society analysis said. 

Among other findings in the survey:

  • 21 percent of Bible users say reading the Bible brings them comfort. Other top emotions include feeling peaceful (19 percent), encouraged (17 percent) and hopeful (16 percent).
  • Only 12 percent of Americans say they are “highly” knowledgeable of the Bible. Thirty-one percent say they are “moderately” knowledgeable, while another 31 percent say they are “somewhat” knowledgeable. One-fourth (26 percent) say they are “not too” knowledgeable.

A majority (54 percent) of Americans say the nation would be worse off without the Bible. That’s an increase from 2020 (49 percent).

“This belief in the Bible’s value to the United States aligns with a sense that the Bible upholds American values,” the analysis said. “Faith (72 percent), hope (71 percent), and love (69 percent) … are widely agreed upon as values the Bible is essential for sustaining.”

The survey was released Tuesday and based on interviews with 3,354 Americans in January.

Related:

Bible Reading Soared in 2020, with 181 Million Americans Opening it: They ‘Are Finding Hope’ 

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Tutye


Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The christian Post, the Leaf-Chroniclethe Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

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