Our Relationship with Books -- It’s Complicated! Survey Says

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Posted Aug 30, 2018

Books -- they are ubiquitous in our lives from childhood favorites to college textbooks to your Mom’s well-worn cookbook that sits on the counter in your kitchen to the newest thriller you just can’t put down. Chances are that somewhere in your home there are bookshelves with actual paper books on them. You may also have a Kindle or listen to books on your phone. And you probably have a library card. We surveyed 1,000 consumers about their reading preferences -- what are they currently reading, where are they reading it, and what format do they prefer? So get comfortable in your favorite chair, you know, the one you sit in to read a good book, and settle in for a good read about reading.

Is Reading Still Fundamental?

The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go. — Dr. Seuss

We found that 34% of the consumers we surveyed told us they are currently reading a book. When asked which book, write in responses included titles from popular fiction, textbooks, how-to manuals, science fiction/fantasy, classic literature, and the Bible. By far, the preferred spot for reading was at home with 93%, distantly followed by outside (20%), a public space such as a coffee house (13%), and at the office (4%). Demographically speaking, women were far more likely to choose at home, while consumers ages 25-34 were more likely to choose outside or at a public place as their favorite reading spot.

While 55% of consumers chose Amazon as their go-to place to buy/rent books, it was followed closely by the library with 41% and bookstores with 36%. The juxtaposition of Amazon and the library might bring to mind the recent kerfuffle caused by a Forbes.com essay (since unpublished) suggesting that Amazon take over the role of libraries. Social media did not react kindly to this idea with many tweets/posts touting the important role that libraries play in our lives. From our results, it appears that consumers value both Amazon and the library.

Only 8% of those surveyed chose Audible as their preferred place to obtain books. Women were more likely to choose bookstores, while men were more likely to choose Audible, and 18-24 year olds of both genders were the most likely to head to the library.

Whatcha Readin’?

A book is a gift you can open again and again. —Garrison Keillor

There are many reasons that influence consumers’ choice of reading material. When asked why they read the last book they read, here are some of their varied responses:

  • Book club
  • Recommended by a friend
  • A highly acclaimed book in 2017, and seemed interesting and well-written
  • I was in a bad spot in my life and needed something to help lift me up and give me courage
  • Wanted to learn how to better manage my finances
  • I saw some ads on social media for it. It sounded like a good fit and I really enjoyed it
  • For school
  • Moby Dick, because I remember hating it in college and not being able to remember why

The Scent of a Good Book

I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves. —Anna Quindlen

Remember when personal computers and the internet were going to save whole forests of trees by changing our reading and writing habits? In perhaps, a surprising finding to some, when asked about their favorite book format -- print books were by far the favorite garnering 72% of the responses. No other format even came close, with e-reader books at 16% and audiobooks at 10%. Looking at the demographics, women were more likely to choose print books vs. men who chose audiobooks. According to our findings, iIt looks like print books are not going anywhere fast. There is still joy in feeling the pages turn, smelling that book smell, and living amongst bookshelves full of your favorites.

Loved the Book, Hated the Movie

Never judge a book by its movie — J.W. Eagan

Nothing brings out a reader’s opinions more than their favorite book being made into a movie. Heated debates ensue and friendships are put on the line. Recent book to movie adaptations include Red Sparrow, A Wrinkle in Time, Gone Girl, Peter Rabbit, Ready Player One, and The Martian along with popular series like The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, and 50 Shades of Grey. 77% of respondents said they were a fan of movies and TV shows based on books. 18-34 year olds were more likely to enjoy movies based on books vs. consumers ages 45+ who were less likely. 56% of consumers said they read the book first if they are planning on seeing the movie. Consumers ages 18-34, those with household incomes of $100,000-$200,000, and women were the most likely to read the book prior to seeing the film

The Takeaway

Video may have killed the radio star (though that too might be debatable) but electronic/audio books have not killed off print books. In fact, according to a report from NDP Book Scan, unit sales of print books grew in 2017 vs. 2016 and have actually risen every year since 2013. Reading a good book is still a pastime enjoyed by the majority of consumers. Oh and one other thing - save a friendship - don’t mention you liked the movie version of Ready Player One better than the book.

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