May 23, 2022

Some New Statistics About America’s Book Buying Public

Stats from a new Bowker/Publisher’s Weekly report.

Generation Y, those born between 1979 and 1989, spent the most money on books in 2011, taking over long-held book-buying leadership from Baby Boomers. That’s according to the 2012 U.S. Book Consumer Demographics and Buying Behaviors Annual Review, the publishing industry’s only complete consumer-based report integrating channel, motivation and category analysis of U.S. book buyers.


GenY’s 2011 book expenditures rose to 30 percent — up from 24 percent in 2010 – passing Boomers, 25 percent share. And with 43 percent of GenY’s purchases going to online channels, they are adding momentum to the industry shift to digital. 

The collapse of Borders Group, Inc., which accelerated movement of book sales to online retailers and away from bookstore chains. By the fourth quarter of 2011, online retailers’ share of unit purchases had risen to 39 percent, up from 31 percent at the close of 2010. Conversely, chains’ share fell to 30 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011 from 36 percent in the final period of 2010.

Continued growth of e-book consumption, which rose from 4 percent of unit sales in 2010 to 14 percent in 2011. Among major subgenres, e-books had the most impact in the Mystery/Detective category, accounting for 17 percent of spending, followed by Romance and Science Fiction; where the format accounted for 15 percent of dollars spent.

The slow economic recovery, which continued to nudge more book spending into affluent households in 2011. Fifty-seven percent of book spending in 2011 came from households earning more than $50,000 annually, up from 54 percent in 2010.

A slight dip in women’s lead in book buying. Though still a more powerful spending group than men, women’s share of unit purchases declined to 62 percent from 65 percent in 2010 and their share of spending dropped to 55 percent from 58 percent in 2010.

Read the Complete Bowker News Release

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.