US Consumer Book Buying webinar, summary

Bowker and AAP sponsored a webinar today on US Consumer Book Buying.  It was incredibly well organized and full of good data.  My notes and comments are included below.


  • Tina Jordan (AAP)  moderator
  • Kelly Gallagher (Bowker) speaker

2009 data, first 6 months, based on what consumer is buying/reading

  • 2008 – e-commerce the dominant channel for book sales, beating out brick n mortar
  • 2009 – so far, large chain bookstores are back at the top
  • Consumer is King and defines the marketplace, we can’t publish like we used to – the old supply/demand model.

3 indicators – impact of economy, competition for leisure time, product selection (genres, formats) 

Economy –

  • 2001 – 2007 book buying was good, avg. 60% of adult population, but in 2008 with economic crash, only 49% buying books.
  • 2009 – long tail and print on demand make more titles available longer.  What impact will eBooks have?
  • 64% of book buyers say the economy is having an impact on book buying
  • 69% females, 57% males, those making less, not buying as much
  • women sharing books and buying used books more often

Time –

  • before 1975 there were 8 choices for entertainment/info (books was one) –  in 2009 there are 21 choices (books still there), more choices = less room for reading books, harder to reach users
  • online activity taking the lead in activities – over TV, music, reading.  Reading books is in a decline the last 3 years
  • more men give up reading for online activity
  • even with the best book readers (male/female), online activity is taking more of their time than reading
  • age – 65+ spends more time reading than online, but every other age segment is online more than reading
  • where can you reach buyers? online is the key
  • 21% of fiction book purchases were based on online awareness (heard about it online)
  • 55% of heavy/moderate buyers are socializing online – differs based on genre of fiction books, fantasy is largest group

Product Selection –

  • trade market: double digit declines in hardcover/paperback and mass market sales, yet ebooks are up 28%
  • cost differential in sales – hardcover vs. eBooks $6.25 price difference
  • eBooks having biggest impact on the hardcover sales
  • eBook units/sales – 2008 less than 1% market share/units – less than 2% overall sales. 2009 1.5% market share/units and 1.2% overall sales – eBooks still small market share, but dollars spent declined (9.99 eBook price impact)
  • who is fueling the eBook growth? early adopters of eBook readers.  largest growth segment is those over 50 -183% change in growth
  • devices -Sony & Kindle attracting the older age group, PDA/iPhone are attracting younger readers
  • iPhone readers are young & affluent (follow the money)
  • computer use/downloads are still predominant way to access/read eBooks 40%, Kindle 26%, iPhone 13%, Sony 6%, PDA/mobile – 5%, other 8%.  But if you look at it by genre, like fiction, the Kindle takes the dominant share
  • young males might be the next wave of eBook buyers
  • juvenile book sales increasing in 2009, fiction too
  • YA readers – 72% female, 28% male and females buy more books, but males spend more per unit then females
  • not all YA books purchased by YA’s, ranges in all ages 18 – 40 year olds have over 50% of YA sales


  • consumer today wants what they want, when they want it, how they want it
  • publishers should take the additional effort to find readers and deliver the content they want
  • my two cents – libraries should look at this data too and figure out how to reach our users with the content they want
  • Data from – Bowkers Pubtrack Consumer Survey
  • bookbuyrinsight- twitter