Monday, June 27, 2011

Book Buying Behavior: What Purchased

I've enjoyed this series of posts this is third in the group and comes directly from questions and feedback on the previous ones. This data comes from PubTrack (the consumer market research arm of Bowker) who recently released their 2010-2011 Book Buying Report. It collected buying behavior from 40,000 unique U.S. book buying men, women, and teens. The sample represents more than 96,000 unique book purchases and 65,000 shopping occasions.

The other two posts are:
A number of commenters asked if this was only for print books or if it included ebook sales as well. Well here is the graph on "what" was bought and the ebooks were a small per percentage of this particular group.

Now of course hardcovers cost a lot of money and ebooks, in general, are a lot less expensive so when working on quantities the numbers look better but still it is a small percentage:

Someone else mentioned a question on genres and I'll post that in the tomorrows post. Any other questions related to this survey?


Suzanne said...

I suspect that what we're seeing for ebooks here is what J. R. Tomlin commented on for yesterday's post:

...publishing is so volatile at the moment that even a relatively short span after a survey it could be somewhat out-of-date.

Given the current publishing industry environment, results from an annual survey will lag behind the reality.

Suzanne Adair

J. R. Tomlin, author of Historical Fiction and Fantasies said...

I don't know how they garnered their sample, but 2.2% eBook sales?

That is enough in itself to skew the results pretty seriously. I think that may be in part what I mentioned in my previous comment, that publishing is changing and so are buying habits.

It looks like the method they're using to acquire a sample is missing eBook buyers. It is easy to get a self-selecting sample such as by doing your sampling at conventions.

Interesting information, but I'd look at it through a large chunk of salt as opposed to a mere grain.

Steve DeWinter said...

The 2011-2012 Review will reflect more of what we are hearing recently in the news about the sudden rise of ebooks. And with almost ten authors already hitting the Kindle Million list, ebooks stats will surge forward. I can't possibly imagine how those stats will look next year if the Review also includes the recently announced Harry Potter ebooks. It would be a crime not to include those as part of the yearly book sales to consumers.

David Gaughran said...

JR & Suzanne hit the nail on the head. 2.2% e-book sales by revenue or 3.8% by volume is more than enough to skew this data completely. That's more like 2009 figures.

Either they made errors with the sample (only choosing people who predominantly purchase print books), or it's out of date.

It's not useless, it's very handy for figuring out how people buy print books. I just wouldn't race to any conclusions about what that means for e-books.

Steve mentioned something interesting in his comment, that I touched on in my blog post the other day.

Will we ever see sales figures for the Harry Potter ebooks? They could announce any number they like and there is no way of verifying.

On top of that, because they are outside "the system" they will never feed into any of the numbers that Amazon spits out, let alone into anything like the AAP figures.

The AAP figures already don't include most small presses and e-presses and all self-publishers. But now, with major authors self-publishing, and those figures not being counted, do we need some kind of new industry standard to measure the numbers?

Essentially, what I am saying is with the rise of self-publishing, the reluctance of major retailers like Amazon to provide hard data, and the increasing numbers of authors selling significant amounts through their websites (and its more than Rowling), will we ever have an accurate picture of the industry again?

David Gaughran said...

Oh and thank you Robin for providing all this data!

I find it fascinating.

wannabuy said...

I'm with David,

1. thanks for the data! (Hint, my charts are up for April sales):

2. It provides good print book insight, but something is off having that few ebook buyers... hmmm...

As to an accurate picture, probably not. We'll always undershoot non-AAP sales. ;)


Robin Sullivan said...

Thanks wannabuy - I always enjoy your treatment of the AAP numbers. Keep up the good work.

Shevi said...

In general, Bowker can't track ebook sales, so the ebook figures here are irrelevant. Here's a link to the information:

And a quote: "But BookScan isn’t reporting this explosion in eBook sales. Nielsen’s Dennis Halby says they’d like to get eBook numbers, but don’t have an estimate on when that might happen. And considering the terrarium-like Kindle environment Amazon is building, I wouldn’t be surprised if Amazon keeps a lid on things. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Amazon launched a BookScan rival.

"How much market share does Amazon have in eBooks? Nobody knows. I’d guess it’s 75 percent and rising fast."

I'd go with Amazon's figures, since they actually have the facts. Bowker can only report what they know, and what's going on with Kindle sales is a complete mystery to them.

Robert Bruce Thompson said...

Of course, that article is two years old, and the information is hilariously out of date.

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Libary girl said...

Robin, when can we expect to see some new Ridan titles coming on the market. Your blog obviously led me to your website which I now follow religiously and you have a couple books coming that I'd love to read.

Robin Sullivan said...

@library girl - we have a number of titles coming out really soon:

- Joe Haldeman's Forever War
- Andrew Fox's The Good Humor Man
- Todd Fonsecca's Time Cavern II
- Eric Knapp's - Cluck Murder Most Fowl
- A book by Jackson Archer (that may yet go through another name change).
- Nathan Lowell's book #4 - Double Share
- And a 7 book sci-fi series by a very famous author that we are in the final stages of signing - more to come soon.

Robin Sullivan said...

@Shevi - Yeah Bookscan is useless - the data I'm citing is from surveys of readers - as opposed to Bookscan which shows orders through the distribution chain.

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