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Bowker: Gen Y Zooms to the Lead in Book Buying

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According to Bowker, Generation Y, those born between 1979 and 1989, spent the most money on books in 2011, taking over long-held book-buying leadership from Baby Boomers.  That’s according to its 2012 U.S. Book Consumer Demographics and Buying Behaviors Annual Review, a publishing industry’s consumer-based report integrating channel, motivation, and category analysis of U.S. book buyers.

The Review, prepared by Bowker Market Research and industry trade magazine Publishers Weekly, notes that Gen Y’s 2011 book expenditures rose to 30%—up from 24% in 2010—passing Boomers, with a 25% share.  And with 43% of Gen Y’s purchases going to online channels, they are 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.  “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.”

The Review explores demographic changes in the context of overall market trends culled from the Bowker Market Research consumer panel of almost 70,000 Americans who bought books of any format and from any source in 2011.  It reveals another pivotal year in the evolution of the book industry, marked by such significant events as:

  • The collapse of Borders Group, Inc., which accelerated movement of book sales to online retailers and away from bookstore chains.  By the fourth quarter of 2011, online retailers’ share of unit purchases had risen to 39%, up from 31% at the close of 2010.  Conversely, chains’ share fell to 30% in the fourth quarter of 2011 from 36% in the last period of 2010.
  • Continued growth of e-book consumption, which rose from 4% of unit sales in 2010 to 14% in 2011.  Among major sub-genres, e-books had the most impact in the mystery/detective category, accounting for 17% of spending, followed by romance and science fiction, where the format accounted for 15% of dollars spent.
  • The slow economic recovery continued to nudge more book spending into affluent households in 2011, where 57% of book spending came from households earning more than $50,000 annually, up from 54% in 2010.
  • Though still a more powerful spending group than men, women’s lead in book buying slipped a bit as purchases declined to 62% from 65% in 2010 and their share of spending dropped to 55% from 58% in 2010.

“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.  “The information in the annual review is just what is needed to help all industry members adjust to the new publishing reality.”

Bowker Market Research is a service of Bowker, an affiliate of global information company ProQuest.