If someone tries to tell you that only older generations buy books, they don’t know what they’re talking about. Believe it or not, last year folks between the ages of 23 and 33 (Generation Y, born between 1979 and 1989) spent the most money on books than any other generation, according to the 2012 U.S. Book Consumer Demographics and Buying Behaviors Annual Review.
But even more interesting, Gen Y are buying more books than they did in the past. Their book expenditures represented 30% of books sold in 2011 — up from 24% in 2010. And with 43% of GenY’s purchases going to online channels, that generation is adding momentum to the industry shift to digital.
“The book industry is operating in a new and dynamic landscape that puts much more power in the hands of consumers,” said Kelly Gallagher, vice-president of Bowker Market Research, the organization that prepared the report in partnership with Publishers Weekly. “Consumers can now very easily purchase virtually any book they want, whenever they want it and get it at a competitive price. It’s more essential than ever before to understand who is buying and what their expectations and habits are.”
Other trends of note from the report include:
- By the fourth quarter of 2011, online retailers’ share of unit purchases had risen to 39%, up from 31% at the close of 2010.
- E-book consumption rose from 4% of unit sales in 2010 to 14 % in 2011. Of e-books sold, the Mystery/Detective category accounted for 17% of spending and Romance and Science Fiction accounted for 15% of dollars spent.
- 57% of book spending in 2011 came from households earning more than $50,000 annually, up from 54% in 2010.
What does this mean for you? Here are the takeaways I came up with:
- It is increasingly important for you to make your books available in e-book format. And this is getting easier and easier to do. Both Kindle and Nook have publishing platforms that make it simple to offer your book on those readers. And services such at Smashwords and BookTango make is super easy to offer your book in a wide variety of e-book formats.
- If you are a genre writer — especially if you write mystery, romance or science fiction — you HAVE to make your books available in e-book formats.
- If you are trying to reach a more affluent audience, books are a good way to go, households earning more than $50K represent more than half of book spending.
“There has never been a more dynamic time in the publishing industry than the one we are in now,” said Jim Milliot, Publishers Weekly Co-Editorial Director and editor of the Annual Review.
Online marketing and the variety of ways you can bring your book to market quickly, easily and with little expense make this a wonderful time for authors to get ahead of these trends, especially since a single author can be much more nimble than a publishing house.