15% fewer books were bought as Christmas presents in 2013 than a year earlier, with those buying a title as a birthday present also dropping by 8% year-on-year, according to figures revealed by Steve Bohme, UK research director for Nielsen Book, at the company’s Books & Consumer Conference yesterday (19th March).
The number of people buying a book for themselves remained roughly the same, in contrast, dropping by just 1%.
As expected, e-books have barely crossed over into the gifting market, with very few people buying them as presents. Meanwhile the research showed that 90m print book units were bought in 2013 as a present for another person, down from 101m units in 2012. Readers are still buying more printed books for themselves rather than giving them as gifts, with that figure standing at 147m units in 2013, down from 162m in 2012.
Bohme said that the industry was in an environment where books were finding it increasingly difficult to compete with other entertainment and that the data suggested some consumers were dropping out of the book market altogether. In 2012, 74% of people said they had bought a book in the last 12 months but 70% said so in the same period in 2013, for example.
A high proportion of people - 21% - are discovering printed books by browsing in person and the same amount of people discover titles because they have read other books in the series, with only 10% discovered by browsing online.
In contrast, for e-books, 31% of people buy the title because they have already read an author in the series while 28% discover e-books through online browsing.
Meanwhile 42% of self-published e-books are bought online.
The main motive for buying books was “love” rather than peer pressure, temptation, need or copying someone else, Bohme said. Of the reasons consumers loved books, passion for the author and the subject were the most prominent.
Bohme also said that 20% of books were bought because they were on price promotions – which increased on 2012.
Access to e-reading devices also rose among book buyers in 2013, driven by an increased ownership in tablets, which overtook dedicated e-readers after the release of the Kindle Fire Tablet in Autumn 2012 and continued to rise at a faster rate in 2013. By the end of the year, over half of book buyers were in households with a tablet or e-reader.
Yesterday, Bohme also revealed research showing that e-book purchases had risen by 20% in 2013, with self-published titles accounting for one-in-five sales.
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