England is suffering from a "worrying cultural divide" with poor adults much less likely to read books than their richer neighbours, a report has found.
It suggests that England is now divided into two nations, split between people who read weekly or daily and those who prefer TV and DVDs to books.
The study goes on to say there are links between an individual's social background and how likely they are to pick up a book, with a higher proportion of people living in poorer backgrounds admitting they never read.
It also concludes that younger people are less likely to be readers, as are men and those with lower levels of qualifications.
The research, published by the Booktrust charity, is based on a survey of the reading habits of 1,500 adults in England.
It found that on average, the richer the background someone comes from, the more likely they are to read.
More than one in four (27%) of adults from the poorest socio-economic backgrounds said they never read books themselves, compared to just 13% of those from the richest socio-economic background, the study says.
"More frequent book readers tend to live in areas of lower deprivation with fewer children living in poverty, while respondents who never read books tend to live in areas of higher deprivation and more children living in poverty," the study says.
It adds that adults from the highest socio-economic background own twice as many books on average as those from the lowest backgrounds (376 compared to 156).
And 83% of adults from the highest group feel that reading improves their lives, compared to 72% of those from the lowest group.
The report reveals that overall, significant minorities of adults have negative attitudes towards reading, with nearly a fifth (18%) saying they never read physical books and seven in 10 (71%) saying they never read e-books.
Over a third (36%) say they often start a book but get bored, while a similar proportion (35%) say they cannot find time to read.
Almost half of those questioned (45%) said they prefer watching TV and DVDs to reading a novel.
The findings show many people, especially those under 30, think technology is changing how people read, and could even make physical books obsolete.
More than half of adults (56%) said they think the internet and computers will replace books in the next 20 years, with nearly two thirds (64%) of 18 to 30-year-olds stating this view.
Over a quarter of those surveyed said they would rather surf the internet and use social media than read - rising to 56% among 18 to 30-year-olds.
The study concludes that on average, people who read regularly are more satisfied with life, happier and more likely to feel their life is worthwhile.
Around three quarters (76%) of all adults questioned said reading improves their lives, while almost half (49%) enjoy reading books very much.
Over a quarter (28%) read every day, with a further 22% reading weekly.
More than half own at least 50 books, with an adult owning around 200 on average.
Viv Bird, chief executive of Booktrust, said: "This research indicates that frequent readers are more
likely to be satisfied with life, happier and more successful in their professional lives. But there is a worrying cultural divide linked to deprivation. There will never be a one size fits all solution when it comes to social mobility, but reading plays an important role - more action is needed to support families."