Sunday, August 4, 2013

Book Buying Habits

I read an interesting article this week, on a Random House website, about the book purchasing habits of Americans. The information came from Bowker Market Research and their 2013 U.S. Book Consumer Demographics & Buying Behaviour Annual Review.  Taking myself as a typical Aussie consumer of books, I decided to compare my own book buying habits to that of the average American.

Type of Book Purchased. 

According to the above graph, 72% of the market in America is still print, with ebooks having grown to 22% of the market, so they still have a long way to go before they dominate the market despite how many Amazon sells.

Since I bought my Kindle in February 2010 I have purchased 26 paperbacks (72%) and ten ebooks (28%), so my print/ebook ratio is very similar to the average American.  

Where Were the Books Bought?

According to the chart 42% of books bought by Americans were purchased online.  Of the print books I purchased, 16 or 61% were purchased online (three directly from the author). When I add in ebooks, 26 of the 36 books (72%) I have purchased since the beginning of Feb 2010 were purchased online.

I virtually mirror the American average in regards to bookstore purchases. Six (16%) of the books I purchased coming from bookstore chains and two (6%) from independent bookstores.  

I also bought one book from the author at a talk and another from a newsagent.

I reckon I would buy more from bookstores if I had more bookstores close by, especially a specialist science fiction bookstore. But I live in a country town with one chain bookstore that at one time had just three science fiction books on its shelves.

What Genres are Purchased?

What no science fiction?  Has it been shoved in with Fantasy or doesn’t it even get to 2% of the market? Maybe American bookstores are like my local bookstore with hardly any science fiction in them. I drastically differ from the average American in that of the 31 books I bought which were fiction,  26 (84%) were science fiction or science fiction crossovers, three (10%) were literature and two (6%) horror.

Where did we Learn About books?

Naturally, learning about a book online was the main source for Americans buying online. Eleven of the 36 books I have bought since February 2010 resulted from online research, but not from reading excerpts or retailer recommendations, as I usually went looking for a sequel or a particular author and read the blurb for the book. I don’t trust online reviews on sites like Amazon, so they played very little part in my buying decisions. I also I bought eight books after interacting with their authors online.

Friend/relative recommendations influenced American buyers of both print and ebooks. I bought seven books from recommendations from friend/acquaintances.

Five of my recent book purchases were as a result of newspaper reviews. Four books I found when browsing in bookstores. One was bought after seeing it reviewed on TV.

So my list of ways I heard about a book goes:

1. Online Browsing
2. Interacting with authors online
3. Recommendations from friend/acquaintance
4. Newspaper reviews
5. Browsing bookstores.

verall it seems my book buying habits are not that dissimilar to the average American.  


greenspace said...

interesting - both the USian stats and yours.

I don't know if I'll do such a thorough analysis of my buying habits, but off the top of my head, I'd say in the last 12 months I've bought maybe 60/40 print to ebooks. print mostly from indie bookshops (when they're having sales) with online bookseller (booktopia) close behind. ebooks all online, not surprisingly, many from Kindle store. I choose print books based on what I've read previously, browsing shelves/sale tables, and sale webpages, and friends' recommendations (plus books written by friends). I choose ebooks based on what I've read previously, browsing sale pages, and posts on FB.
very rough guess, it'd be at least 30% YA (of many genres), 60% grown-up fiction (also of many genres, incl crime, historical, chick lit, science fiction), 10% non fic.

Anthony J. Langford said...

Great article Graham.
Nice to see some graphs and great to see that all the predictions haven't come to fruition as I love paperbacks but 22% is quite a hefty chunk. Price may have something to do with that too.
Plenty of city bookstores have healthy arrays of sci-fi so it's a shame for you and other locals.

Adding my bit, I have bought 100% paperbacks. Love em.

graywave said...

Jeez, that's dismal news. Even if Sci-fi is bundled with the Fantasy figure, it puts Sci-fi sales down around the 1% mark or less! Excuse me while I go shoot myself.

I buy all my books online now (either from Amazon, or direct from the author) and they're all ebooks. The only paper books I get any more are either gifts or they're review copies sent by publishers (even there, most publishers prefer reviewers to pick up ebook ARCs from sites like NetGalley these days).

Graham Clements said...


Good to read of your support for indie bookshops, if only there was one in Wangaratta, it might have more obscure works than the mass market list that the book chain carries. I do like browsing in bookshops.

I read a bit of YA too, Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, being the last.

And Graham Storrs who has also commented on this post, will be glad to hear you read science fiction.

Graham Clements said...

Hi Anthony,

No doubt price has a big part in the rise of ebooks, convenience too. But I do like paperbacks as objects and things of beauty. Interesting that I read Wool as an ebook, but then when I wanted to get its prequel, I wanted to physically possess it, so I ordered a paperback from the Bookdepository.

Graham Clements said...

Hi Graham,

With the rise of ebooks we can hope that science fiction sales will increase, as I have read that science fiction is one of the bigger selling ebook genres. So don't shoot yourself yet.

graywave said...

*Sigh!* Oh all right then, I'll give it another few decades. But if sales don't pick up by then, I'm going for my gun (which by then will be a double-barrelled laser I expect).