A good read for book lovers: More Brits buy print books

October 14, 2019

With the winner of this year’s Booker Prize announced later today (Monday 14th October), the latest research from Mintel highlights the nation’s love of the physical book, as the number of Brits buying a print book increased from 51% in 2018* to 56% in 2019**.

Overall, the top three reasons Brits are buying a book include:

  • familiarity with an author (43%);
  • because it was displayed in a shop (26%); and
  • a recommendation from a family/friend (25%)

One in ten (9%) has bought a book because it won or was nominated for an award.

While print book buying is on the rise, the percentage of people buying e-books (22%) and audiobooks (8%) remains static. According to Mintel research, the main reason people are not buying e-books is because they do not enjoy reading on devices (45%). Overall, the number of Brits buying a book of any kind increased from 60% in 2018 to 65% in 2019.

From crisp and new to old and dog-eared, physical books remain, by far, the most popular way of reading books, read by 61% of Brits in the last year. During the same time period, almost a quarter (23%) of Brits have read a book on an e-reader, while 14% have read a book on a tablet and 9% on their smartphones. Meanwhile, one in twenty (5%) has listened to an audiobook on a smartphone/tablet and 3% have listened to an audiobook on another device.

In line with the rise in book buying, Mintel estimates that the value of the print consumer books market (excluding institutional and bulk sales) will grow by 1.4% in 2019 to reach £1.65 billion.

Rebecca McGrath, Mintel Senior Media Analyst, said:

“Reading print books is a behaviour people appreciate from a young age. Today, it offers consumers one of the few screen-free media experiences, giving it heightened appreciation. Consumers’ dislike for reading on devices will be very difficult for the e-book format to overcome, but, on the other hand, it has been the cornerstone of the ongoing health of the print market.

“There is a lot of excitement around audiobooks and the value of the format is increasing for publishers at a rapid rate. However, Mintel research doesn’t show an increase in the number of people purchasing audiobooks, which indicates audiobooks are not currently penetrating new audiences. While audiobooks remain a small part of the market, services such as Spotify and Apple Books giving greater prominence to audiobooks specifically should help the format reach new audiences over the next few years.”

Book stores – a national treasure

Capturing a special place in the nation’s heart, according to Mintel research, more than three quarters (76%) of print book buyers think it is important to support independent bookstores, while 73% think it is important to support chain bookstores. Almost half (46%) of print book buyers have bought from an independent bookstore in the last 12 months, rising to 68% of 25-34 year olds. Some 56% of print book buyers believe that independent bookstores are better for finding hidden gems than chains.

But while Brits love their book stores, over six in ten (62%) believe Amazon is the easiest way to buy a print book.

“Overall, 2018 was a positive year for independent bookstores and our research shows that book buyers are especially attached to these retailers. Clearly they have many limitations that larger chains/companies do not have, such as reach and stock. However, the aspect independent shops have always been able to promote is offering something unique. The fact that so many young print book buyers have bought from an independent store is a very positive sign for the future of this market.

“Book buyers do, however, feel it is important to support both independent and chain bookstores. Given the threat of online retailers, consumers appreciate the necessity of supporting all physical bookstores, including large chains that have the necessary economies of scale to better withstand the challenging marketplace.” Adds Rebecca.

More digital readers/listeners are using a subscription

There has been a significant increase in the proportion of digital book readers/listeners using subscriptions in the last year. The percentage of e-book readers who have read an e-book as part of a subscription, such as Amazon Prime, increased from 30% in 2018 to 43% in 2019. Meanwhile, the percentage of audiobook listeners who have listened to an audiobook as part of a subscription increased from 37% in 2018 to 46% in 2019. Male e-book readers are significantly more likely to read e-books as part of a subscription (51%), as are people aged 25-34 (65%).

“There is a growing desire to have unlimited access to content for a set fee, so much so that it is now a widely used payment model for media content, with services such as Netflix being commonplace. People clearly have an increasing interest in reading/listening to digital books as part of a subscription as they’re doing with other media formats, such as video and music. With awareness of the fact that purchasing a digital book does not necessarily guarantee permanent ownership, people are going to be even more inclined to consume digital books as part of a subscription and then opting to buy print when truly wanting to own a book.” Rebecca concludes.

*12 months to April 2018

**12 months to May 2019

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