Authors love women

Two fascinating articles on who drives books sales. Would love to see original reports.

September, 2010

I arrived back at work, along with 2,000 e-mails and about that many incoming books, I got a report from Bowker, a global firm that tracks people’s book-buying habits. Here are some of the more interesting bits from 2009:More than 40 percent of Americans over the age of 13 purchased a book; the average age of the American book buyer is 42.

Women make 64 percent of all book purchases, even among detective stories and thrillers, where they buy more than 60 percent of that genre. [see, they act all touchy feeling, but most women like to see someone kick hiney. Except I suspect a lot of that 60% is driven by mysteries; or are there a lot of women that like, say, Lee Child?]

Thirty two percent of the books purchased in 2009 were from households earning less than $32,000 annually. A fifth of those sales were for children’s books.

The biggest nonfiction genre is biography and autobiography.

Whoa. Go gals.

June, 2011

Surprise, surprise: the hardcore power users in the eBook world are the same demographics as the hardcore power users in the physical-book word, as a report called Consumer Attitudes Toward E-Book Reading from the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) indicates both hardcore groups are dominated by women buying fiction.

No surprise, really. The BISG says most eBook power buyers — that is, someone buying an eBook at least once a week — are by and large women (some 66 percent), who mostly buy fiction. Out of the entire eBook market, power buyers make just 18 percent of all buyers, but they buy 61 percent of the eBooks. [Holy crap! 18% are driving the sales–who are these people?! Of course, this is just the old 80/20 rule showing its face again.]

In terms of exactly what is selling: literary fiction, science fiction and romance lead the way, each with over 20 percent of the market. [Go SFF!! and those are not the normal breakdowns, SFF is usually under 10%] Overall, eBooks comprise 11 percent of the total book market, with 13 percent of print book buyers also downloading eBooks.

That evolution of the market isn’t surprising: early gadget adopters tend to be men, but as eReaders become more mainstreams, its userbase logically would look like the book market as a whole. And that’s exactly what happened: If women buy 64 percent of all books, it’s no surprise they’re buying 66 percent of all eBooks. [Except I think you got your math wrong; they’re 66% of power buyers. You didn’t say what report said of total sales]


Seems women have been driving entertainment in a lot of ways for a long time. Watch a few minutes of this interview with Hitchcock back in 1964.

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2 Responses to Authors love women

  1. Marny says:

    What I want to know is how they collect this data. Have you ever filled out a survey when you purchased a book on your age or household income? I suppose it would be easy for a clerk to click something that indicates gender but I don’t see how they can get any other information. (For online purchases I can understand being able to collect some of this information since people will give more data to get matched up with books they like.)

  2. John Brown says:

    Never. Which is why I want to see the original reports. I just don’t believe 64% of Lee Child readers are women, although I may be mistaken. I can easily accept that 64% of mystery and police procedurals etc. are gals, but shoot em ups and military thrillers?