Friday, July 03, 2009

The New RWA Readership survey

I was going to write a post about the Fourth of July and its northern counterpart -- Canada Day, but the RWAs latest readership statistics about the romance industry appeared in my inbox.

The RWA does two surveys -- an industry one which comes out every year and the Readership survey which appears about every four years. The readership survey gives info about the readers -- who they are, where they read and even what type of books they read. The last one appeared in 2005. And so this new one is the most up to date snapshot of the readership.

So what did I learn from the survey?

One of the big surprises is ebooks v paperback books. Of the respondents in 2008, 90.6% of romance readers read paperback books and just under half read hardbacks as well. 5.4% have read a romance book as an e-book and 6.5% listen to audiobooks. I would suspect that the last time this survey was run 2005, far fewer had read an e-book. And it goes show that while e-books are growing (and have had exponential growth), they are not replacing paperback books yet.
Of those who do read ebooks, more than half do not use a dedicated ebook reader.

No one genre is preferred to another. This makes sense as over 74.8 million people (90.5% of them women -- there are reasons why Donna Hayes, the publisher of Harlequin Enterprises said that she was unconcerned about male readership!) have read a romance novel and that is a lot of different tastes. There are about 29 million regular romance readers out there and the most popular place for readers to learn about new books is in the back of romance novels. ( As I am always finding new novels by reading the end pages, I was glad to see that I am not alone!) And the most popular online source for learning about new novels is the publisher's website.

The biggest age group of readers are aged 31-49. Romance readers are more likely than the general population to be married or living with a partner. More romance readers are located in the South than in the Northeast.
More than half said that these were impulse buys rather than planned purchases.

Most read romance novels at home and about 29% always carry a romance novel with them. (I wish I was more organised. I try to remember to grab a book before I leave the house, but more often than not have retrieved the book to finish and have forgotten to put the new book in! But carrying books around is one of the reasons why I have a large purse.)

Also 91% readers said that if they like an author, they will read her backlist. And that 70% were likely to follow a favourite author to a new genre. 88% were willing to try new authors. They found new authors via the recommendations from friends, and from the retail or library shelf.

About half had purchased a used book. However, just over 45% were not aware that authors receive no payment or royalties for a used book. I think it is very important to educate people that by all means buy a used book if you want (and in some cases it is the ONLY way to get hold of a backlist) but be aware that the author will not get any money for it. And if you don't have the money, try to get it out from the library as in some countries like the UK and Canada, authors do get Pubic Lending Right money. And at the very least you are supporting the library which does buy the books new.

Anyway, I found the survey very interesting and hopefully someone else has as well. Did anyone learn anything new?

Currently Michelle Styles is hard at work on her next early Victorian. Her next North American release will be The Viking's Captive Princess in December.


Estella said...

I was surprised that no one genre was preferred over another.

Pat Cochran said...

Like Estella, I found out today that
there is no genre that outdistances
the others. Interesting!

Pat Cochran

Michele L. said...

That was very interesting! I am one of those 90% women who love romance! :-) I like all genres actually. Just in the last year, I have developed an interest in the paranormal romance books. I love them!

I really enjoyed the stats on the readership survey! Very surprising about the male stats. I have heard from a friend who owns a used bookstore that men come in there and buy certain romance books such as Janet Evanovich's, Stephanie Plum series, Twilight, Paranormal romance books, etc. She said surprisingly that about an equal number of women and men buy romance books at her place. I was surprised when she told me that!

Michelle Styles said...

Estella and Pat --
I was sort of surprised as well. But it could be that they were evenly spilt...It simply goes to show that lots of things are popular. And I guess it would depend on how the question was framed as well.

Michele L -- I had seen stats before that said that male reders were about 25%. And I think that many male readers read paranormal/suspense/adventure romance without necessarily realising that they are reading it... I do have male readers.

Thank you all for commenting.

Maureen said...

I am glad that paperbacks won't be replaced soon because I don't think I'm ready for e-books yet.