What’s in Store

Random House commissioned Zogby International to conduct a poll of more than 8,000 Americans about their book-buying habits. You can read the findings online (PDF). (Via)

Some interesting details pop up, once you scrape away the “American Dream Materialists” vs. “American Dream Spiritualists” funny business. (I have a sociologist in the family who cautions me not to treat Zogby as the gold standard in social research—I’m not articulate enough to restate all the reasons, though of course a poll on book buying commissioned by a company that’s trying to get you to buy books has inherent issues. And it’s an Internet poll, which I have to imagine skews the facts too.) Lots of us buy books at independent stores (49 percent) but not very often (9 percent of the time). We like Barnes & Noble brick-and-mortar stores (47 percent) but not their online store (10 percent). Being able to find a book quickly online is more important that knowing what others thought about it. End-caps aren’t terribly useful. Hardly anybody cares about e-books.

Most interesting (at least to my own selfish interests), we consider book reviews an important factor in our book buying (49 percent)—a huge trouncing of Oprah Winfrey, who only inspires book buying five percent of the time. (Jon Stewart beat her with eight percent—where’s his book club?) Thing is, I wish I knew what people have in mind when they hear the term “book review.” Does it mean a reader review on an Amazon page or a post on a book blog or a piece in a literary review? Probably some mix of all three—after all, we’re in an era where a lot of younger readers don’t especially notice whether a story they take to appeared on the New York Times or the AP wire (“I saw it on the Internet”). Attention pollsters: Maybe break out the question into subcategories of “review” next time around?

Update: Caleb Crain weighs in.

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