Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Book Confession: Book Obsession?

Over the last month or so I’ve had a few conversations with people that have got me thinking. In the pub over New Years someone mentioned a statistic that struck me.
10% of people are responsible for 85% of books purchased.
London Tube Commuters
Now, this was a slightly drunken discussion so I don’t know where he got these numbers, how accurate they are or how it was calculated, but my first thought was that it wasn’t right. There are loads of people who read – any commuter train or tube in London will have dozens of people reading either kindle or book in order to pass the time to work. I would have thought it would be higher than 10%. But since then, I’ve noticed it’s always the same people I see reading – the girl who sits across from me who is making her way through The Game of Thrones series and the suit guy who always has the latest booker prize shortlisted book. Is it really only a small number people of responsible for most book purchases?
I know some people who only read magazines and papers and would never pick up a book. Other people don’t even print if they can help it. And then there’s me: I have a huge number of books in my small flat. And I buy most of them – a few are giveaway wins and one or two swaps, but most of them I purchase with my own money. I even feel like I’m in withdrawal if I got a whole week without visiting a bookshop or surfing Amazon. I easily fit into the 10%. So much so that  one person upon hearing how many books I owned that I haven’t read (about 350 at last count but probably more in reality!), asked if I would ever read them all. I have enough books to continue reading at my current rate for the next three years or so before I run out. I would assume that most book bloggers would also fall into this category, from definition.
So is it an obsession? Are those of us in that 10% addicted to buying books? It may not be as bad as drugs or alcohol but a lot of our time is spent thinking about next fix and money disappears into the hands of publishing houses and booksellers.
What are your thoughts? Do a small number of people contribute to the majority of sales? Can we ever read all those books? I know I want to read all mine eventually!


  1. No idea, but, I could see it. Especially now. Not before though, cos then I just read what I found and did not really influence anyone at all

  2. That sounds about right to me, percentage-wise. Let's face it, as much as reading has become more of a public hobby in recent years, the vast majority of people don't do much reading in their day-to-day lives. And the ones who do read tend to read a lot. Just looking at my bookshelves and the bookshelves of my roommate, I wouldn't argue that the minority of readers by the majority of books. When I see bookbloggers reviewing 50 books a year, 100 books, even more, and then I overhear adults bragging that they haven't read a single book since high school, then yes, I can completely believe it.

    Last time I went into a bookstore, I came out with 5 books. Ditto my roommate. And that doesn't include books I've bought through Amazon. So 10 books between 2 people. And that was just one trip to the store! I think we bought 5 each the time before that, too. So just from personal experience I can safely say that people who like to read will read -- and thus purchase -- a lot, whereas people who read only because they have to (school books, for example) will go entire years without purchasing anything.

    I am Bibliotropic, and I am the 10%!

  3. I don't know about 10%, but it sounds about right that a small number of folks read a whole lot of books. The people in my life are polarized; either they don't read much or they read voraciously. The voracious are outnumbered, anecdotally.

    And it'll be a sad sad day for me if I ever reach the end of my TBR pile. Anticipation is half the fun!

  4. I think that statistic could be true. I also remember reading one last year and it was something like 60% of the adult population hadn't completed a book in the last five years - it makes me sad. I am always pushing books on people!

    I would say about half if not more of the children in my class come from homes where no one reads and the only print is newspapers/TV guides.

  5. Speaking to people at work, there are few people who read a lot. Those who read one or two books every few months, some who read all the time. I fall in between these two camps (knitting gets in the way). I think that it might be a higher percentage of people. How every I do know that bookshops buy 100 per cent of the books they sell.

    My other half would say it was an addiction that affects his life as well as mine.

  6. Slightly drunk? ROFL

    I know people who go through spurts in reading. You don't see them often with a book in hand and then for a week or month every so often you can not help but see them with one. *shrugs* So who knows... maybe it just has to be the right book at the right time. Don't know how that fits in with the 10% and (even though I'm not) I think I'm starting to sound a bit drunk... LOL

  7. LOL. I love pub statiticians, bizarrely they often have an element of truth in them! In this case it does sound about right. Even in a visit to Waterstones I always find people buying books buy more than one and as bloggers we probably buy more books than anyone. Thinking as well how easy and accesible it is to buy books from Amazon or The Book Depository nowadays it does make me think that your pub statitician was spot on.