The Bookselling Market: What’s Hot, What’s Not

Bowker recently released the “2009 Book Consumer Annual Review: U.S. Demographics & Buying Behaviors.” It was based on responses from 43,000 people in book publishing. And while it would cost you a whopping $1,000 to download and read the complete report, here are some highlights, courtesy of Publishers Weekly. This is some pretty interesting information for people who are trying to decide whether to publish an e-book, whether to try and get their book carried in bookstores, etc…

What’s Selling

  • Chain bookstores accounted for 27% of unit sales in 2009, while the e-commerce segment represented 21% of units sold.
  • The only other channel to have at least a 10% share of the market was book clubs, which had an 11% share.
  • The bookstore chains’ leadership position was more pronounced when sales are measured in dollars, with the chains grabbing 37% of dollar volume, while e-tailers, which discount heavily, taking 19% of dollars spent.
  • The study found Barnes & Noble to be the largest seller of print titles, with a 15% share of units purchased compared to 13% for Amazon and 10% for Borders.
  • Adult fiction was the largest of the major categories in 2009, generating 40% of units sold, although only 28% of the dollar volume due in part to the large number of fiction books that are sold as low-priced mass market paperbacks.
  • Young adult (boosted by Stephenie Meyer) and general fiction were the two largest subgenres, accounting for 8% of unit sales each last year. Romance and thriller/espionage each had a 6% share of units.
  • Paperbacks accounted for 59% of units sold in 2009, while hardcovers represented 36% of units.
  • E-books accounted for only 1.7% of unit volume in the year and a little more than 2% of dollars.
  • E-book buyers are using e-tailers to buy both their print and digital titles. In the first quarter of 2009, 37% of e-book buyers bought print books online, a figure that rose to 55% in the first period of 2010.

Who’s Buying

  • Eighty-one percent of both unit sales and dollar volume in 2009 came from consumers who had at least some college education.
  • Women generally buy more books than men. But not by the percentages you might think. In the Matures age bracket—readers born before 1948, men accounted for 48% of units and 54% of dollars spent, while in the Baby Boomer group (born between 1948 and 1966), men also accounted for 54% of dollar volume, although their unit market share was only 43%.
  • Examining why consumers buy books, the study found topic/subject and author to be the two most important motivating factors, although there was a distinct difference between fiction and nonfiction.
  • The most common way consumers became aware of a title in 2009 was at a store through an in-store display, with recommendation the second most popular.

Interesting information, right? I’ll post another entry in a few days further delving into why people buy specific books, but this is some good information to absorb as you begin your book publishing and book marketing endeavors.

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