From Unshelved, the booksellers email newsletter, some stats on what is selling in the bookstores today:
First, from Jim King, senior v-p and general manager of Nielsen
* Over the past five years, sales of adult nonfiction were up overall
11.1% but declined in 2008. In adult nonfiction, travel was down 4.6%,
biography and autobiography rose 34.1% and business was up 19.4%.
* In biography, over the past five years, sales of personal memoirs rose
567%, travelers were up 516%, cultural heritage rose 175% and political
bios were up 56%.
* In the business category during the last five years, personal finance
rose 122%, economics and general business was up 351%, finance jumped
103% and investments and securities were up 117%.
* In the self-help category during the last five years, spiritual was up
224%, mood disorders rose 108%, general personal growth was up 183% and
motivational and inspirational titles rose 51%.
* Sales of adult fiction were up 8.9% during the past five years. In
that category, general fiction was up 23.3%, graphic novels rose 52.7%,
mystery and detective titles were down 12.7%, literary fiction rose
86.1%, historical fiction was up 24.1% and political fiction was up
* In the first quarter this year, adult nonfiction sales were down 8%.
Within that category, cooking was up 4.8%, humor rose 8.9%, travel fell
18.7%, business and economics were down 10.1% and
biography/autobiography rose 7.5%.
* Fiction has been "pretty much flat" during the first quarter. General
fiction was down 3.4%, romance has risen 1.5%, mystery/detective was
* Children's book sales were up almost 9% in the quarter. ("Stephenie
Meyer is still driving children's.") Children's fiction was up 10.4%,
and children's nonfiction was up 2.5%.
Then from Kelly Gallagher, v-p of publishing services at R.R. Bowker,
who focused on information about customers:
* The average book reader last year was 45 years old. Some 65% of buyers
are women, who tend to buy in higher volumes than women.
* 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 for the year to date are down just 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
* 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 spend 15 hours a week online, more than
for TV, providing "opportunities to provide information to them online."
* In the trade, digital book sales grew 125% last year and represent
1.5% of the trade. Seniors are "leading the way" in the purchase of
e-books. Digital book purchases by those 64 and over rose 183% last
year. Seniors are also the largest users of Kindles.
* 48% of e-books are still being read on computers. Kindles have a 22%
market share; the iPhone has 20% of the market "with less than a year of
having a good e-book app."
* Last year for the first time online became the "No. 1 selling
channel," and accounted for 21% of sales.
* "The younger crowd are larger supporters of large chain bookstores."
* Book clubs are still significant sales channels for reaching older
* The fiction market is predominantly female. The one area of fiction in
which men predominate is science fiction, where 55% of buyers are male.
* Stephen King's audience is "middle market." Sue Grafton appeals to an
older, low income audience. Stephenie Meyer appeals mostly to younger,
* 67% of book buyers who were influenced by book reviews read them
online, and 32% did so in print. Overall online ads were the "first
level" of book awareness in 2008--54.1% of buyers of a book became aware
of the book through online ads, including banner ads, Google ads and
publishers' websites. (And likely e-mail newsletters, too!)
And finally Dave Thompson, v-p and director of sales analysis at Random
House, offered some more information about trends in the market:
* Direct mail catalogues continue to be very important for Harlequin in
introducing readers to books, and the publisher has done an excellent
job converting book club members and subscribers from catalogues to the
* Readers first hear about books most often from "store displays"
(44.4%). The second-biggest "awareness driver" already is online
(including online ads and e-mails from retailers).
* Kroger's book of the month program has been very successful.
* Target has a far higher number of female buyers than Barnes & Noble.
* Some 60% of mass market books are bought by people who earn less than
$50,000 a year.
* At Costco, some 33% of buyers of adult books earn less than $50,000 a
* In grocery stores, 75% of book buyers are women and 83% of the
purchases are impulse purchases and 83% of books sold are fiction--all
the same demographics for mass market books.