Americans More Likely Not to Buy Books

September 20, 2011

harris-books-purchased-sep-2011.JPGThe percentage of US consumers who have not purchased any books in the past year increased from 2010 to 2011, according to Harris Poll results released in September 2011. About one-third (32%) of consumers purchased no books in the past year in 2011, up almost 50% from 21% in 2010.

While the percentage purchasing one to two books in the past year (17%) remained flat year-over-year, the percentage purchasing three to five dropped 22% (22% to 17%), the percentage purchasing six to 10 dropped 12% (17% to 15%), the percentage purchasing 11 to 20 dropped 9% (11% to 10%), and the percentage purchasing 21 or more books in the past year dropped 25% (12% to 9%).

E-reader Users Buy More Books

Not too surprisingly, poll results indicate e-reader users are much more likely than non-users to have purchased books in the past year. For example, only 6% of e-reader users purchased no books in the past year, one-sixth the 36% of non-users who did not purchase a book.

At the other end of the spectrum e-book users are about twice as likely as non-users to have purchased 21 or more books (17% compared to 8%) and 11-20 books (17% compared to 9%). The second-largest differential, however, occurs in the percentage of consumers buying six to 10 books, which comprises 28% of e-book users but only 13% of non-users.

E-book users are also slightly more likely to have bought three to five books and one-third less likely to have bought one to two books.

Women Dominate Fiction Reading

harris-types-books-sep-2011.JPGLooking at demographic trends in book genres, the poll reveals that women are much more likely than men to read fiction. Specifically, 83% of women who read at least one book in an average year read fiction, 24% more than the 67% of men who do so. A notable exception is in the subgenre of science fiction, where the male reading rate (32%) is 74% higher than the female reading rate (19%).

Some fiction subgenres skew even more strongly toward women than the overall fiction reading rate. Fitting stereotype, 38% of women but only 4% of men read romances, meaning almost 10 times as many women as men read books in this category. In addition, 57% of women but only 36% of men read mystery/thriller/crime books, giving women a 58% advantage. Men and women read literature at an even rate (23%).

Men have a slight edge in reading non-fiction, with 78% of men and 74% of women reading non-fiction books, meaning men read this genre at a rate which is 5% higher. The one subgenre where men read non-fiction at a significantly higher rate than women is business, which 15% of men, almost three times the 6% of women who do so. However, women more than double men’s rate of reading true crime (17% compared to 8%), and also read religious/spirituality books at almost 50% more than the male rate (28% compared to 19%).

Age-related differences in reading rates tend to be less extreme than gender-related differences. A few notable exceptions include Echo Boomers (18-34) reading chick lit at triple the rate of both Baby Boomers (47-65) and Matures (66-plus), Echo Boomers having a substantially higher rate of reading literature, Matures reading the subgenres of mystery/thriller/crime, romance, history and biography more than other age groups, and Gen X (35-46) reading religious/spirituality books at a higher rate than readers of other generations.

E-reader Use Doubles from 2010

The percentage of US adults who use an e-reader device such as a Kindle, iPad or Nook has almost doubled since 2010, according to other Harris Poll results. Fifteen percent of adults say they use an e-reader, about 88% more than the 8% who used an e-reader in 2010. Regionally, residents of the West are most likely to use an e-reader (20%, one-third more than the national average), closely followed by Easterners (19%).

Conversely, only 9% of Midwesterners use an e-reader, 40% below the national average. With 14% e-reader usage, Southern adults are about 7% less likely than average to use an electronic reading device.

About the Data: This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between July 11 to 18, 2011 among 2,183 adults (aged 18 and older). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online

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