Saturday, May 31, 2008

Tidbits from the Random House/Zogby Readers Poll

Interesting bits from the Random House/Zogby poll of readers that was released on Friday:
In very similar percentages by gender, some 82% of readers still prefer curling up with an old fashioned book rather than reading one via the use of any type of electronic reader. Not surprisingly, younger readers seem to be more open to reading books in new formats (13% of those under 30, compared to 6% of those over 65).

Most bookstore customers arrive with a specific title in mind, but some 77% of them say that they make unplanned for purchases at least some of the time.

When it comes to which book they want to read next, 60% say that they are influenced by suggestions from friends and families and 49% admit to being influenced by book reviews.

Judging a book by its cover is something that 66% of those under 30 and 34% of those over 65 admit to doing.

It is important for authors to hit a reader's "favorite list" because 89% say that they make a special effort to find new books by their favorite authors.

The majority of readers read one book at a time but 40% say that they read 2-4 books at once and 3% claim to do the same with more than 4 books.

Only 19% say that they borrow most of the books they read from a public library and, in a bit of good news for bookstores, 78% say that they own most of the books they read.

More than half of those polled, 57%, say that they return a book to their shelves after reading it but 20% pass them on to family or friends, 14% give them away to others, and 3% admit to selling them.

39% of respondents say that they buy 1-5 books a year, 26% buy 6-10, 14% buy 11-15 and 22% buy more than 16.

77% of respondents have purchased books online but 76% shop in chain bookstores and 49% at independent bookstores. Younger readers are more likely to purchase books online, at chain stores and at independents, while older readers are more likely than younger ones to buy at the airport, big box retailers, warehouse clubs, supermarkets and drugstores.

Although 23% say they are reading more this year than in the past, 46% say their reading habits haven't changed and 23% say they are reading less because they are spending more time on the internet, watching television and playing computer games.
Even with all of those statistics the poll doesn't address a question that I always find interesting. What percentage of people are reading today on a regular basis? I've seen statements such as 10% of the population buys 99% of the books sold in this country (percentages are made-up ones I threw in but they are fairly close to what I remember hearing) and that always helps me to understand how tough the book-selling business really is.


  1. I've read of those statistics recently as well, and even just last night read Gore Vidal lament the sudden paucity of readers in the world, but I wonder just how much of it is "Good Ole Days" syndrome. If you think about it, reading has never been a pervasive cultural activity; Shakespeare might have written novels except that the society in which he lived wasn't literate enough to experience his stories unless he hired players to act them on the stage. Literacy (and education) have always been (until recently) something of a pursuit undertaken only by those of certain wealth; in the 1800s, a good education was more scarce than a car, no?

    Consider how many copies the last Harry Potter book sold, or how many copies of The Da Vinci Code have been sold, and then consider that number against the numbers racked up by television, movies, or, most of all, music (when was the last time a book went multiplatinum? Usually they're nonfiction).

    And how many copies of the Bible have been sold, and how many copies have actually been read.

    I think these are the questions we need to ask.

  2. I've always heard, and believed, that the written word only works for a small percentage of the world's populations...books, I mean, and that publishers depend on a that small percentage of folks for the vast majority of their sales.

    I really don't think that's changed much over the last few centuries - although there must have been a little burst of book buying when cheap "pocket" paperbacks first hit the market.

    And, let's face it. Books are expensive enough to be considered a luxury by lots of people. I think that the publishing industry is doing well just to sustain sales numbers from year to year, especially in an economy like this one.

    Personally, I read more now than ever but that's partially because I've learned how to get my hands on the books I want to read without having to pay full retail prices...libraries, ARCs, used books, discount cards, gifts, etc.