According to the latest Random House-commissioned survey of more than 8000 adults:
43% of respondents say that they buy most of their books online. Amazon is becoming the bookshop of choice for such people — not only does it outscore Barnes & Noble online site by 10:1, but independent bookstores are the most common choice of only 9%. Of course, the respondents were all online when they provided that response. Coincidence?
60% of adults spend less than $20 per month on books, and 50% of people buy fewer than 10 books a year. This sounds low but if you multiply it up by the millions of adult book buyers, this is a tidy amount. If you are somewhat cynical, you might wonder why nobody ever says ‘I don’t buy or read books’ — surely there are such people out there and you’d think a survey of 8000 random folk should probably find a few. But then, apparently everyone has a library card too and believes in God. No desirability to these responses surely.
The really interesting data is not so much the claimed spending and type of books purchased (hardcover history books bought at the airport seem remarkably popular with these respondents) but while 23% of respondents claim they spent more time reading this year than last, 65% reported increasing their time spent online (completing surveys, perhaps?) The subject of the book and its author account for over 70% of people being drawn to and subsequently purchasing a book; price and bestseller status were deemed irrelevant by most readers. More than half read only one book at a time but a large proportion (40%) report having 2-4 books on the go at once. Now that’s multi-tasking.
The survey contains a section which asks about ‘bad reading habits’ and people seem to view folding over pages or writing on the text to be serious sins. I can’t understand why if the books are your property but this could just be the survey design (again!). Of course, I admit to using corner folding systematically to reflect the quadrant of the open book I am drawing attention to (works a charm in retrieval, at least for me).
Bad news for the e-readers, it would seem – but you might think the following question was just a little leading: “Do you like to curl up with a printed book or would you be comfortable reading books in other format e.g, online, ebook etc.” — now really, is this a straight question? 82% said they like printed books (does this mean 18% have something against them?). I like to curl up with a printed book for sure, and I am also comfortable reading books in other formats. Can’t I have both?
It’s not easy to make sense of the data this survey yields, there are various combinations of results broken down by political affiliation, investment style, and general belief in the American Dream (I kid you not) but if you are the kind of respondent who provides completely off the wall answers to strangers who push surveys at you, you might recognize yourself in here somewhere. The survey was conducted online so there’s a further complication. 80% of such people say they make up answers that create a positive impression of themselves as intelligent, wealthy, well-mannered citizens. [I am making this last bit up]