As the publishing industry changes and adapts to new circumstances, the book-selling industry must adapt as well. Changes in formats, rising popularity of different genres and crossovers, and even worldwide pandemics that spark global lockdowns have all had an impact on how consumers buy and utilize books in the last few years. Fortunately, there are ways to understand book buying habits that help authors, publishers, and booksellers not only adapt, but also thrive in an industry that evolves at lightning pace.
BookNet Canada has released the first part of its most recent annual survey of book consumers. This portion focused on Canadian consumers who had bought at least one book during different quarters of 2020; future releases on this survey’s findings will investigate how consumers bought those books, as well as the different consumer behaviors between buying and library borrowing. For the purposes of this survey, the definition of a book typically encompasses print, ebook, and audiobook editions.
For the past three years, print has still reigned supreme over ebook purchases at a ratio of about 75% to 25%; of those print titles, about half were paperbacks. As for how the books are actually bought, at times the online-vs-brick and mortar debate was almost evenly split, but online sales did see an obvious surge during the coronavirus pandemic. This was especially true in December, when holiday gift giving–and socially-distanced Zoom get-togethers–reached its peak.
The concept of a brick-and-mortar bookstore has evolved just as much as other parts of the industry. While about 23% of buyers physical store users shopped in a dedicated bookstore, a significant number of people also bought books in grocery stores, discount stores, and other locations.
Interestingly, the behavior of buying certain books was unique. While print book buyers are almost exclusively dedicated to physical copies of the book–so much so that it’s safe to say they rarely buy ebooks or audiobooks, according to this data–ebook buyers actually purchase more books overall.
For more insight and the full scope of the survey, click here to access BookNet Canada’s explanation of their findings as they have been released so far.