Thursday, July 30, 2009

2008 Book Buying

Bowker has released its annual report on book buying, or as they call it, an indepth look at “book data, demographics, psychographics, genre category breakdowns and distribution channel analysis" for 2008.

For authors, the report would prove interesting, with lots of information on the book buying habits of readers. It may also be out of the price range for most authors. It sells for $999. Yikes!

Bowker did release a few tantalizing tidbits.
57% of book buyers are women yet women purchase 65% of the books sold in the U.S.
So, this tells you that last year men bought books almost as often as women, but women bought more books than men. But what does it tell you about marketing or the way publishers present books? Or the way bookstores display books?
Mystery books are the most popular genre for book club sales, with 17% of all purchases of mystery books coming directly from book clubs
Bowker says mysteries are the most popular, but they represent only 17% - that leaves room for other genres. How can you work toward getting your book listed with book clubs?
Generation X consumers buy more books online than any other demographic group, with 30% of them buying their books through the Internet
First of all, who are the people making up Generation X? It can vary, but most say it is that generation born between 1961 and 1981. That’s a pretty wide spread, but it tells you that Generation X and most likely those born after 1981 are adept at buying things online. What does this tell you about e-books?
21% of book buyers said they became aware of a book through some sort of online promotion or ad
We used to find out about books from our friends or reading reviews in the paper. Increasingly, those avenues are becoming less relevant. So, what does this say about where you should be promoting your book?
Women made the majority of the purchases in the paperback, hardcover and audio-book segments, but men accounted for 55% of e-book purchases
The majority of women buy books they can touch and hold. The majority of men buy e-books. Consider this when deciding what format(s) to choose for your book and how to promote that book.

That covers the free information Bowker provided. If anyone buys the full thing, let me know. Also, tell us your ideas on these stats. Does it change your way of thinking? Do you think you’ll do things differently or change your focus?
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  1. I love statistics like this! I'm not surprised that women buy more books since most of the readers I know are women.

  2. Interesting!

    I'm Gen X....buying online is pretty easy. But I have to go to physical stores to browse.

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  3. So, this tells you that last year men bought books almost as often as women

    57% vs 43% means women were almost a third more likely to buy a book than a man. That's pretty significant. Does this cover all books or just fiction? I think men tend to prefer non-fiction.

    The majority of women buy books they can touch and hold. The majority of men buy e-books.

    Helen, I love you dearly but you are making statisticians cry right now. Ebook sales represent a small percentage of overall book sales. What's they're saying is that of that small number of ebook sales, the buyers are more likely to be men. Men still buy the vast majority of their books in dead tree formats. Look at that original statistic, Books buyers are 57% women and 43% men, but for ebooks that ratio is reversed. So men are probably early adopters of new tech. We like toys. after all.

    The 21% figure for hearing about a book on-line means that the majority of promotion is still off-line, through personal recommendation, advertising (usually on radio, here in the UK anyway), magazine format TV shows, and chat shows. One appearance on Oprah (or backin the day, on Richard and Judy in the UK) can artificially skew sales.

    I'd like to know what the ratio of sales is for the top 100 books sold in a year versus the rest. My gut feeling would be that the top 100 represents 50-60% of all sales.

    What percentage of that 21% does Amazon account for with it's recommendation system, what percentage actual advertising, what percentage blog posts? Sites like Pats Fantasy hotlist are pretty influential in the fantasy genre for instance, but still insignificant, I'd guess, as an influence on overall sales.

    See, this is what happens when you start posting statistics. I'm going to have trouble sleeping tonite.

  4. Very interesting data. I'm surprised the majority of men buy ebooks. The mystery genre being most popular was not too surprising. Although I'd have thought with all the women romance novel nuts that genre might have been tops in pops.

    The Old Silly's Alter Ego

  5. I'm Gen X and I buy most of my books online because they're cheaper. I love going to bookstores but I find I can't pay full price for a book I can get online for cheaper. I don't, however, do e-books. I prefer having paper in my hands.

  6. I buy books both ways. No bookstore in my town mean online purchases are necessary. When I get to a bookstore, I can't wait to touch the books and flip through the pages.

  7. Interesting statistics, and Anton made a good point that it takes some thought and analysis to truly understand it all.

    I, too, was surprised at the stat that said more men buy e-books. It would be good to know if there was a specific genre mentioned or was it all e-books. There are tons out there in non-fiction dealing with sports and other topics usually of more interest to men. I wonder if that accounts for the higher number here.

  8. Interesting statistics! I guess I need to try writing a mystery! I'd also like to see the full report, but not for $999!

  9. You're right Anton. I should have made clear that each of my comments was directed to the stats directly above, not to the stats in general. And I am, indeed, no statistician. The answers to your other questions may be in the full report. Hopefully, someone who gets the entire report will break it down for us all.

    Stacy - I, too, love to browse in a store. I really want to hold the book and check it out before I buy.

    Stephanie, I don't do ebooks either, but that's because I don't have a reader. But I think they would be fabulous for people like my DH who travels a lot. He, however, can't get past the price of an e-reader. He says he can buy a lot of books for what it would cost to buy a reader.

  10. Statistics! This will be my favorite post of the day, I can tell already.

    Thank you very much for sharing these -- I'm not surprised by anything you mentioned above.

  11. I always find the numbers interesting. Thanks for the post!

  12. Well, I'm generation, “Before the Dawn of Time.” Nonetheless, when I was doing signings, I noticed that most of my buyers were women. You can attribute that to the book’s genre if you like--it's a contemporary love story. But, I also watched all buyers, as I normally sat near the checkout area. By a fair margin, the buyers were women. Not sure what this means, but that was my experience.

    Best Regards, Galen
    Imagineering Fiction Blog

  13. Helen thanks for this. I'm surprised a bit by the stat on mystery. I thought it would be higher and I also thought romance would top it. I know romance readers are addicts.

  14. I'm with you, Galen. I thought women would far outnumber men when it comes to book buying. On the other hand, my DH buys books when there's a trip coming up and he needs something new or when he's at the airport on trips.

    Lauri, I clearly only have the few stats Bowker released for free. Romance might have been right up there with mystery. Also, keep in mind, that particular stat was for book club sales, not necessarily for overall sales.

  15. I'm glad I write mysteries, also a woman who buys books. Somebody notices.

    Morgan Mandel

  16. Interesting data. Thanks.

    My son pointed out that some of the text books for his business exams are now only available in e-book format. He plans to buy and then print. And the books cost a fortune. I wonder if that skews the data.

  17. Sheila, I had been reading that more and more textbooks are being sold only at ebooks. Hopefully, they're cheaper that way. It may skew the data, but I would think the longer Bowker report would differentiate between fiction and nonfiction and textbooks.

    Hi Morgan. I don't know that it changes whether I buy a book or not, but I do notice whether the author has a male or female name.

  18. We don't have a real book store in our town, so I'm a Generation Xer who buys online. (But I visit many book stores to do signings, so I still buy many there, too.)

    BTW - Generation X is 1965 - 1975.

    L. Diane Wolfe

  19. bookbuyrinsight7/30/2009 4:12 PM

    Hi All

    BookbuyrInsight here co-author of the 2008 annual report with Publishers Weekly. I would be happy to share some 'essential facts' on book consumers that really is a introductory chapter to the $999 Annual report.

    Let me know a good email address and I will send it. Nice comments by the way. At last a view into the book consumer!

  20. I buy almost all my books online, and I own a Kindle. I have noticed that many of my friends don't understand e-books, they seem afraid of buying anything online, which is weird to me. Great information, thanks for sharing. I'm sure I won't be laying down $999 anytime soon.

  21. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  22. Diane, thank you for giving me the correct dates on GenX.

    Diane and Elizabeth, I'm buying more online than I used to and I have a spanking new B&N practically across the street!

    Hi BookBuyrInsight. I would love for you to share your essential facts on the Bowker report with all of us. I'd be happy for you to post here on Straight From Hel. I'm now following you on Twitter, but can't DM you since you're not yet following me. My name on Twitter is MermaidHel.

  23. bookbuyrinsight7/31/2009 8:05 AM

    Hi MermaidHel

    I am now following you on twitter and here is the link to the essential facts.

  24. Good information, Helen.
    I'm a baby boomer who buys online and in stores, as well. I've given up on book clubs, because accepting or refusing a shipment is one more item on a long To Do list.
    Probably won't change my writing intentions or my steps to seeking publication, except that I'm feeling more favorable toward e-publishing of late.
    EEgods! You tweet and blog often and post comments and write and edit and redo your website. I am in awe.

  25. Great post, Helen. Like how you point out the implications these stats have for writers. Bound books will never die, but ebooks are definitely on the rise. The importance of online marketing and purchasing is very interesting. I see so much resistance to these trends among some of my writing friends, and I just don't understand it.

  26. I'm a boomer and both browse and buy exclusively online now, mostly kindle.

  27. From what I notice in book stores, more men purchase non-fiction. I'm surprised when I hear about how many people (men and women) buy biographies and memoirs. I only read fiction, often based in fact, but I like characters.

    Go figure, though, that my first book is a memoir. Sometimes things just turn out that way.

    I'm doing most of my marketing on the web and the rest to my target market, musicians. Book stores are not likely to provide an audience for mine.

    I have to look more into ebooks. Haven't gotten that far, yet.


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