Research Outline

Consumer Behavior in the Publishing Industry


To identify 2-3 recent changes in the consumer behavior patterns in the publishing industry and how the industry is adapting to those changes. These changes can be across book mediums (print, e-book and audio books).

Early Findings


  • 20 % of book readers in the U.S. stated they read more e-books than hard copy books, and 23 % read about the same number of hard copy books and e-books.
  • In 2018, about "26 % of American book consumers stated they had read an e-book in the last year, however print books were still the more popular format among U.S. readers."
  • Millennial consumers had a higher level of e-book consumption compared to older generations. In 2018, "34 % of 18 to 29 year olds said that they had read at least one e-book in the last twelve months, a figure which decreased with age and stood at just 15 % among those aged 65 or above."
  • E-book sales "have been fluctuating over the past few years, decreasing year-on-year from 2013 to 2016, however sales peaked in 2017 and reached 266 million units."
  • Illegal access and downloads have negatively impacted the e-books industry. In 2017, data indicates that "over 31.5 million books were illegally downloaded in the United States that year, resulting in a total sales loss over 315 million."
  • Data revealed that "41 % of illegal book downloaders in the U.S. were aged 18 to 29 years old, and 47 % were between 30 and 44 years of age. 51 % of respondents said that the reason they accessed books in this way was because doing so was free or cheap."
  • "52 % of U.S. adults surveyed in 2017 said that they purchased e-books (or bought more e-books in general) due to cheaper prices."
  • According to a survey from 2017, only 10% of adults aged between 18 and 29 said that they had purchased up to 10 e-books in the past year, and 34 % had not purchased an e-book at all.
  • Readers are also increasingly using e-book lending libraries to borrow books.
  • According to the NPD Group, "nearly 3 out of 4 consumers in the U.S. reported reading a book or listening to an audio book in the past six months."


  • According to a 2019 NPD survey, "respondents reported reading roughly 9 % less this year than they did last year overall, with the steepest decline among readers between the ages of 45 and 54. Books were said to be "facing stiff competition for consumer attention from other entertainment activities."
  • The same survey found that print books are preferred over any other reading format. "More than half of respondents reported reading a print book in the past 6 months, while only one-quarter read an electronic book (e-book).
  • "This was consistent with NPD point-of-sale tracking, where the print book market makes up 81 % of the overall market, up from 72 % in 2013. "
  • An industry analyst for NPD noted that “the preference for print books over e-books is especially true for kids’ books,” since parents "value the lap time print books offer, which allows them to bond with their children and foster an early love of reading. Parents also view print books as an "offset to screen time."


  • "54% of audiobook listeners are under the age of 45. "
  • Audiobook listeners "consume books in all formats with 83% of frequent listeners having read a hardcover or paperback in the last 12 months and 79% having read an e-book. "
  • Audiobook listeners read or listened to an "average of 15 books in the last year, and 57% of listeners agreed or strongly agreed that 'audiobooks help you finish more books.'”
  • The "top three reasons why people enjoy listening to audiobooks are: 1) They can do other things while listening (81%); 2) They can listen wherever they are (80%); and 3) Audiobooks are portable (75%). "
  • "52% of people said borrowing from a library/library website was important or very important for discovering new audiobooks. 43% of listeners said they downloaded an audiobook from a library and 14% said that most often use the library for their digital listening."