December 17 – 24, 2009 Edition

Report Details Economic Impact on Book Buying Habits

NEW YORK, NY/AUTHORLINK NEWS/December 17, 2009–Several interesting (and a few surprising) insights have come from a year-end Consumer Book Trends 2009 report, compiled by Bowker PubTrack and just released this week by the Association of American Publishers. Most important, the report points up that knowing your customers is essential to publishers.

The report found that book buyers are buying only slightly more trade paperbacks (35.2%) than hardcovers (34.9%). Mass market represents 21.4% of the market. While the e-book market represents only 1.6% of the overall market, that segment has doubled this year over last year and is expected to continue explosive growth.

Of those book buyers surveyed, 64% said they had cut back on book purchases as a result of the poor economy. And slightly more men than women are buying books, a rather new phenomenon thought to be related to women’s greater frugality during a down economy.

Among females age 30-44, price is a key factor in buying a book. While the average selling price of a book for all buyers surveyed $12.35, the average price for these young women was about $9.74 last January and about $10.14 for the third quarter.

Females ( roughly 28%) buy most of their books at large chain stores, while about 18%  purchase books through online e-commerce.

About 12% of this age group buy their books at mass merchandise outlets, with Wal-mart owning a whopping 72% share of  mass merchandiser book sales.

Roughly 62% buy paperback formats, while 33% buy hardcover.

Their main reasons for buying a book are that they like the topic/subject (26%) or the author (26%). Most (39%) read adult fiction; twenty-nine percent of these women are buying juvenile books for their kids, and 14% read non-fiction.  

This group of young women become aware of the books they buy either through a story display or on the shelf (25%), or through recommendations by a friend or relative (14%).

These 30-44-year-olds are definitely socially connected, with 65% using Facebook and 29% using MySpace.  Five percent of this group read e-books daily or weekly, ten percent are likely to buy an e-reader and 5.6% have an iPhone.

Examining the buying habits of young men 18-29 years old, the study showed that they represent only 6% of the book buying market but 10% of the dollars spent. Thirty percent are shopping at large chains and about 22-28% shopped online this year through the third quarter. They, too, prefer paperbacks (61%) over hardcovers (32%) in the third quarter.

These young men prefer adult fiction (28%), with 22% purchasing academic and professional titles.  

What drives these young men to buy a book? They like the author (19%), or they like the topic or subject (17%). They are less likely than women to buy on a friend’s recommendation or store display and more likely to buy based on an in-store sales clerk’s recommendation or on the recommendation of a teacher or course. They, too, are socially connected with the majority (64%) on Facebook and 44% on Myspace.

Perhaps surprising to some is that 15% of these young men read ebooks daily or weekly and 20.4% are likely to buy an e-reader, with 11.1% owning iPhones.

According to the AAP report, consumer segmentation is essential in all phases of publishing.  Knowing which consumer types are trending upward in a particular genre is essential to customizing title offerings to their tastes. Also the report urges publishers to know how their customers are becoming aware of books and what impacts their purchases.

The PubTrack Consumer Survey included a sample of 36,000 book buyers and represented an annual view of 120,000 book purchases and 80,000 shopping occasions. A recorded webinar is available at:

For more information about the report, contact Kelly Gallagher, Vice President Publishing Services at Bowker,, or Tina Jordon, vice president of the Association of America Publishers,