If there was ever a marker for the state of the economy, it was seen at BEA last week. Some of the big boy publishers, like Macmillan, didn’t have booths set up this year, and arcs were as scarce as snow in Louisiana. I helped work the HWA booth that weekend and although we were set up in some dark corner of Writers Row, we did get a decent amount of traffic. Understandable since we were one of the few booths giving away free books.
Although BEA garnered smaller crowds this year than last, word has it that they’re planning to move the event to the middle of the week next year. I suppose they have their reasons, but for the life of me I can’t figure out what they might be. With people doing all they can to hold onto the jobs they have now, how can they possibly expect them to take off of work for three days in the middle of the week to attend the event? To me, moving it to mid-week is a kiss of death—but that’s just me, and what the heck do I know?
Smaller crowds or not, I enjoyed BEA, aching feet and all, but I have to wonder, as an author, is it really worth the time and effort? Aren’t we trying to get to readers? And if so, who ARE today’s readers? The latest statistics from R.R. Bowker, the exclusive U.S. ISBN and SANS agency, show the current buyer trends—
The average book reader last year was 45 years old. Women comprise 65% of buyers. Of all Americans 13 or older, 50% bought a book last year. The average age of the most frequent book buyer is in the 50s. The average price paid for a book last year was $10.08. Unit sales (number of books sold) for the year to date are down 1.2%.
31% of all books purchased last year were impulse purchases, and 28% of purchases involved readers planning to buy a book, but not knowing what they wanted. Thus more than 50% of book buys are impulse purchases. 41% of people earning more than $100,000 a year buy comics and graphic novels. 41% of all books purchased are bought by people earning less than $35,000, and most people in the U.S. earn less than $35,000.
The average book reader now spends 15 hours a week online, more than for TV. Digital book sales grew 125% last year and represent 1.5% of the trade. Digital book purchases by those 64 and over rose 183% last year. Seniors are the largest users of Kindles. 48% of e-books are read on computers. Kindles have a 22% market share; the iPhone has 20% of the market. Last year for the first time online became the “No. 1 selling channel,” and accounted for 21% of sales.
Book clubs are still significant sales channels for reaching older readers.The fiction market is predominantly female. The one area of fiction in which men predominate is science fiction, where 55% of buyers are male.
If those stats are accurate, it looks like free arcs at events like BEA might become a thing of the past. Or worse—BEA might become passÃ© as well.