Age Makes a Difference in Reading Preferences

Source: Roepke Blog
Source: Roepke Blog

Well, we’ve looked at sex and at differences between US and UK readers, so I thought we would take a look at age differences in this post. The numbers are: 203 between 20 and 29; 371 between 30 and 39; 537 between 40 and 49; 695 between 50 and 59; 466 between 60 and 69.

My expectation is that the under 30 crowd in particular will have different preferences. Here’s what I found.

Where do you purchase/acquire books?

  • Bookstores prove to be more popular amongst the under 30 crowd than other age groups with 53% citing bookstores as locations they frequently or exclusively use. The next highest group of bookstore users is the 40-49 crowd at 43%.
  • In addition, under 30s are more likely to borrow from friends than all other age groups.

What book format are you reading?

  • under 30s are much less likely to be reading ‘mostly e-books’ (13%) than all other age groups (23 to 25%), and more likely than all other groups to read mostly print books. Seems consistent with this group’s preference for bookstores and borrowing from friends.

What factors are important when choosing a book?

  • price has the least impact on folks in the 50-59 age group;
  • cover design is less of a factor the older you are, decreasing from 30% for under 30s to 14% for those over 60. You can’t fool older folks with an eye-catching cover!
  • All other factors – author, length, subject matter, trusted recommendation and publisher imprint – are roughly equal across age groups.

Pricing matters

  • for paperbacks, under 40s are willing to pay more than other age groups;
  • for hardback books, willingness to pay higher prices rises with age.

Why do you read historical fiction?

  • ‘to understand the experience of those marginalized by history’ has the greatest appeal to those under 30 while ‘because it’s a form of time travel’ decreases in appeal as age increases.

What type of historical fiction appeals to you?

  • preferences for romance, for strong female characters and for myth/legend/fantasy decreases with age
  • series with ongoing characters have less appeal with the under 30 crowd – I find this particular result surprising given the interest in writers like GRR Martin.

What time period do you prefer?

  • ‘choosing widely from different time periods’ has more appeal to those over 50.
  • Other time period choices were roughly the same for each age group.

Where do you find recommendations for good books?

  • those under 30 say they get fewer recommendations from friends and more from browsing bookstores
  • those under 40 are the most like to use social media for recommendations
  • those over 50 are most likely to use the books section of their newspaper
  • online retailers and websites/blogs are relatively equal as a source of recommendations across age groups

What do you look for in a book review?

  • the older you are, the more interested you are in information about the author as part of a book review

Use of blogs, social media, and other online sites for recommendations and book discussion

  • use of online sources decreases with age
  • use of book ratings are highly valued by under 30s (44%) – this aspect decreases with age to 22% for those over 60
  • the appeal of book giveaways, best of lists, opportunity to comment, and ability to track your books decreases with age

Your feedback is welcome – debate encouraged! As in other posts, I’ve included differences only when the data showed significant gaps in age groups. There are lots of other posts about the 2013 reader survey and you can find survey highlights here.

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE is set in WWI France and is available in paperback from Amazon and in e-book formats from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. Mary can be contacted on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads.

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7 Responses

  1. The results for younger readers surprised me, Mary. I wonder if the addition of coffee shops to book stores with the attendant opportunity to socialize has increased their interest in the physical?

    1. What an interesting thought, Carol. I wonder also if the younger crowd just doesn’t have the money for e-readers – although, of course, they can also read on other mobile devices. It was a surprise to me too.

  2. My thought for the under 30 crowd was that they were used to being in bookstores to buy textbooks—and maybe living someplace where they could FIND a bookstore.

  3. I see older readers trending more and more to e-books because of the physical issues: weight on hands with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome; large print for declining eyesight. Also the ease of purchase for those with limited energy for shopping.

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