Monday, June 27, 2011

Book Buying Behavior: Where Purchased

Yesterday, I did a post that used some data from the 2010-2011 PubIt Book Consumer report. A number of comments questioned where the sales from this survey occurred. Well, ask and you shall receive.

To refresh your memory, the report in general 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. Here is what their study said about how where the purchases occurred:

My take on this data:
  • As Ridan's business model is based on E-Commerce purchases, I'm pleased that this venue was the largest percentage of the sales.

  • I'm not sure what "Non Traditional" means. I guess if I had the full report it would explain this category in more detail. I'm going to try and find out.

  • I'm going to be watching the numbers for supermarket, warehouse clubs and mass merchandisers. With the collapse of Borders and the continuing problems at Barnes and Noble I have some concern that if these venues disappear so too will the mid-list shrink. Supermarket, warehouse and mm focus on the big-name cheap paperback books and growth here will be somewhat disturbing for a large number of authors.

  • Large chains were still selling well during this report. It will be VERY interesting to see what this will be in the next report.

  • It will also be interesting to see what happens with Independents as the large chains continue to close stores.
So there you go, all in all I think the survey did a good job of getting a nice "cross section" of book buyers. Any predictions going forward?


David Gaughran said...

Honestly, I thought online would have been higher. But maybe e-books aren't included at all. Do you know when the survey was conducted?

Because if e-books are, say, 20% of the market, and are included in this survey, that would mean a very small percentage of print books were purchased online which isn't right.

However, I assume that either e-books weren't included in this, or it was conducted at some point in 2010 when e-book numbers were relatively trivial. Even so, I thought online sales were approaching 50%. I wonder if there was something unusual about the way they collected this buying behaviour that has skewed the results towards physical stores.

In any event, just taking the figures "as is" there is a lot of interesting stuff here. With the Borders meltdown and B&N's continuing store closures, a lot of that 29% is up for grabs.

A lot is bound to go online, purely because many people have no alternative within easy driving distance. However, there is a large portion which indie bookstores could make a play for.

Most regular chain customers are heavier readers than the supermarket/box store customers, and will demand a wider selection.

Indie bookstores can offer all that and more, but will struggle to capture the price conscious. Clever indie bookstore owners will be actively targeting customers in the old cachement area of these closed down chain stores, keen to show what added value they can bring to the whole book buying experience.

Hopefully the fire sales in Borders won't prime customers for lower prices of box stores and supermarkets, but I fear we will see some growth there too.

Ultimately though, I think this will only encourage more people to eventually make the switch to exclusively shopping online and eventually to e-books.

In the meantime, the power shift to box stores and supermarkets will kill the publishers. If you thought chain stores were aggressive in demanding discounts, wait until Walmart are buying even more books. It will be like the UK. Tesco have such power now it's crazy. They have a veto over covers from all major publishers, they can pretty much demand any discount they like, and the selection is extremely limited.

Can indie bookstores exploit these changes? I hope so, but it hasn't happened in the UK. Indies only have around 4% of the trade there (far less than the US).

I think most buyers will go online. The store with the biggest selection usually wins.


Suzanne said...

Robin, thanks for distilling this fascinating information for us. I'm curious what differences the BEA data showed between genres. I'd be surprised if where books are purchased and how potential buyers became aware of them were the same for science fiction and mystery (for example).

Suzanne Adair

jnfr said...

Costco has really reduced the size of its book area, and moved it away from the front of the store. I take that as a sign that their book sales have fallen off.

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

Interesting figures but darn hard to know what to make of it. Did those figures include eBooks? I agree with David that I don't see how they could have been.

Of course, publishing is so volatile at the moment that even a relatively short span after a survey it could be somewhat out-of-date. I wonder if that might be the case here. I wonder when the survey was done.

wannabuy said...

@JNFL"Costco has really reduced the size of its book area, and moved it away from the front of the store. I take that as a sign that their book sales have fallen off."

Costco has gone to a peak season book selling model. I noticed their mid-year book selection the last 3 years has been tiny versus prior years. But wait for the holidays... the hardbacks will be out by the pallet.


P.C. Haring said...

I went into a B&N the other day looking for a specific title that had been published by a couple of friends of mine. This title was put out by one of the big six so I knew that B&N should have it.

Took me 20 minutes to find.

I'm not an idiot and I know my way around a library and/or book store. I walked in knowing the title, author, publisher, and what the cover/spine looked like. I had EVERYTHING I needed to find that book and it still took me 20 minutes to find the.

Had I not been insistent on finding that title at B&N, I would have walked out after 5 minutes and gone to Amazon and picked it up there. Had I not even known this title existed, I wouldn't have found it at all.

It's because of situations like this that I would predict the continued reduction of the brick and mortar book store whether it's a big chain like B&N, or a smaller indie store. Online storefronts are making things far easier to shop, find, and purchase and I'm not sure if it's possible for a large brick and mortar to keep up.

The numbers from this survey certainly bear this out, but I am curious as to one thing these results don't appear to capture. For the 30% of 'e-commerce' sales, I'd like to know the breakout of ebook purchase vs print book purchase. I suppose it doesn't matter as a sale is a sale for the purposes of the survey. But I still would be interested in that break out.

Thanks for sharing this information.

wannabuy said...

I'm with David, these numbers do seem to under-count ebooks/online. I speculate they surveyed book buyers who frequented bookstores.

@David:"A lot is bound to go online, purely because many people have no alternative within easy driving distance."

I know about two dozen people where between the Borders *and* the less publicized B&N closures the 'convenience factor' pushed them online. Mostly to flavors of the nook! (scratches chin and just accepts it...).

I agree with you on the discounts that will be demanded. For better or worse, the publishing model is being thrown on its ear.

Just imagine what will happen with all the devices coming out late this year: Ipad3?, Amazon tablets/cell phone, android tablets galore, etc.

Interesting times ahead,

Robert Bruce Thompson said...

I'm sure the figures are off. Even AAP and PW now say that more than 50% of frontlist title units are purchased as ebooks, along with an ever-increasing percentage of backlist titles, so it appears that ebooks aren't included in these numbers.

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