Sunday, July 21, 2013

Poll Results: How Do You Discover Books?

Last month, I sent out a poll to various friends, family, and acquaintances to ask them how they discovered books and what made them choose to buy them.  I received 15 replies, 14 of whom were female, ranging in age from early 20s to retired.  Many are writers and many are involved in education.

If more surveys trickle in, I may update this.  But for now, may I present the results of research.

1. How many fiction books/ novellas do you read each year?

Average (Mean): 33 books a year
Lowest: 2 books a year
Highest: 200 books a year

2.  How do you find new books?

"My favorite way to find a new book is on because after having rated some books, the website will give me personalized recommendations.  This is less overwhelming than walking into a bookstore with no idea what I'm looking for."

"Sometimes I browse the used bookstores and just pick up something that looks interesting or was recommended by one of their store employees.  Another minor way I've read a few books was through  [...] Honestly, though, I've read all the books I've discovered this way, but haven't fallen in love with any of the authors.  Really, my biggest way of finding new books is asking my friends what they like, then sticking with the authors I like."

60% (9/15) of those polled cited Friends/ Word of Mouth as a way to find new books.
53% (8/15) of those polled cited Browsing at bookstores, libraries, or used bookstores.
47% (7/15) of those polled cited, using recommendations, email alerts, discussions, reviews, and freebies.
27% (4/15) of those polled cited, using recommendations and email alerts.
27% (4/15) of those polled cited Other Websites, including Goodreads, Reddit, Pinterest, and Bookseller's Digest.
13% (2/15) of those polled cited Newspapers.
13% (2/15) of those polled cited Movies.
40% (6/15) of those polled cited Miscellaneous, including anthologies, radio, bookseller's lists, online reviews, favorite authors, and literary classes.

3.  How does a book first catch your eye?

"The first page/ hook is important--that's where I see if I like the writing style, story, and character--given the limited time that I have, do I want to be involved in the story?"

"I'll pick up something that catches my eye based on the cover (oddly enough) or title.  I'll then pick it up, read the back, and take a peek inside.  If I find that the first few pages has sucked me in, I'll take the book home with me."

47% (7/15) of those polled cited the Title.
40% (6/15) of those polled cited the Cover, looking at the color, if it jumps out, birds, strong female character, and if it looks funny.
33% (5/15) of those polled cited the Author's Name.
27% (4/15) of those polled cited the Summary/ Description on Back.
27% (4/15) of those polled cited the First Page(s), looking at the writing style, the story, the characters, and the theme.
13% (2/15) of those polled cited Genre.
7% (1/15) of those polled cited Bookstore Employee Recommendation Signs.
7% (1/15) of those polled cited Reviews.

4.  After getting your attention, what makes you decide to buy/ read a book?

"Hooked after the first chapter/ few pages.  Usually the summary 'sells me' in addition to online recommendations/ reviews."

"Right now, it has to be very inexpensive or free.  I'll read just about anything Michelle Knowlden recommends.  If it's a new book in a series I'm already reading."

60% (9/15) of those polled cited Summary and Description, with one person being sold on murder and another considering blurbs.
47% (7/15) of those polled cited First Page(s), with one person looking at style.
27% (4/15) of those polled cited Price, with one person not buying a book over $10.00 and another wanting the book to be inexpensive or free.
13% (2/15) of those polled cited Good Reviews.
13% (2/15) of those polled cited Next in a Series.
13% (2/15) of those polled cited Recommendations.

5.  Is feeling like you know the author important? 

"Through their writing, tells a lot about the author.  The author pours themselves into whatever they're writing."

"I don't go out looking for facts about any author.  The only thing I want to know is what to expect from them through their writing.  I've noticed that when I like one book from an author, I tend to like all of their books, because the writing style and type of plot doesn't change."

53% (8/15) of those polled said Yes.
5 people said, "I learn about them through their writing."
1 person said, "I like supporting local authors."
2 people read the Author's Biography.
2 people check the Author's Website.

33% (5/15) of those polled said No.
2 people said "All I care about is their writing."
2 people said "But knowing the author is a nice bonus."
1 person said, "Except when their life is important to understanding their work."

13% (2/15) did not answer.

6. What are your favorite books and how did you discover them?

"Twilight--Amiee bought the entire series for me for Christmas and told me I had to read them.  I loved these books.  I read each book in 2 days.  That's a record for me."

"The Great Gatsby--Read it in high school for an English class and enjoyed it.  Re-read it when I found out they were making a movie."

"The Hunger Games--A certain niece told me about it, took me to the movie, and started to read the book to me."

49% (21/43) of books came from Friends or Family, with 8 specified as Recommendations, 4 as Gifts, and 3 as Loans.
13% (6/43) of books were discovered from School, with 3 Assigned Reading, 1 from an AP Practice Test, 1 from SAT Essays, and 1 from a Book Order
13% (6/43) of books came from Bookstores, with 1 specified as from the Library Bookstore, 1 from Barnes and Noble, and 1 from Borders.
7% (3/43) of books were discovered when a Movie came out.
5% (2/43) of books came from an Anthology
5% (2/43) of books came from Book Clubs
2% (1/43) of books came from an Amazon Recommendation
2% (1/43) of books came from Book Exchange
2% (1/43) of books was discovered because they Already Knew the Author

By the way, the The Top 3 Favorite Books/ Authors are:

#1 Harry Potter/ J.K. Rowling (6 Mentions)
#2 The Hunger Games/ Suzanne Collins (4 Mentions)
#3 (Tie) Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy/ Douglas Adams (3 Mentions)
#3 (Tie) Twilight/ Stephanie Meyers (3 Mentions)
#3 (Tie) Agatha Christie (3 Mentions)

Honorable Mentions: Lord of the Rings, C.S. Lewis, David Sedaris, Cormac McCarthy, Neil Gaimon, Chuck Palahniuk, and Terry Pratchett


Most readers seem to find their books via recommendation, whether through friends or Amazon.  There's still a lot of physical circulation of books, through loans, gifts, libraries, bookstores, and used bookstores.  The title and cover are what catches people's eyes, but it's the summary and actual writing that seals the deal.

Interestingly enough, when asked when knowing the author is important, most people, whether they answered yes or no, say they learn what they want from the writing and will continue to buy books from an author they like.  Neither group seems to seek out supplementary info via a blog, social media, etc.  They might glance at a bio, though.

Almost half the favorite books were recommended by friends and family, many of whom passionately force their favorites onto others.  This means the same books keep circulating.  Online websites don't actually seem to match people with their favorite books--at least, not in this survey.  Even browsing and school did a better job of that.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent presentation of the poll results. Very illuminating.