Newsletter 1

What’s Your Annual Book Budget?: Poll Results

Rebecca Joines Schinsky

Chief of Staff

Rebecca Joines Schinsky is the executive director of product and ecommerce at Riot New Media Group. She co-hosts All the Books! and the Book Riot Podcast. Follow her on Twitter: @rebeccaschinsky.

In our latest community poll, we asked you to share your annual book buying budget. Ready to crunch some numbers?

534 Riot readers participated in the survey over a one-week period.

As with all self-report surveys, the data is only as accurate as the respondents are truthful and knowledgeable. We have no way to confirm the amount of money participants actually spend, and it’s reasonable to guess that some of the clustering around round-number responses (25, 50, 100, etc.) might be due to participants who do not track their spending closely making guesstimates about their totals instead.

Additionally, we should not assume that this sample is representative. The results here indicate book buying habits of Book Riot readers who saw the survey and chose to participate. These individuals may differ in some meaningful way(s) from readers who do not track their book spending, were not online when the survey was distributed, or opted not to participate. Therefore, we should not use this data to generalize to Book Riot’s community at large.

Here we go!

Question 1: Of all the books you read in a year, what percent do you buy or pay for in some fashion (i.e. through an ebook subscription service)?

515 usable responses

Range: 0-100%

Mean: 53.4%

The mean is likely not the most informative measure here. Let’s examine how buying habits break down more closely.

book buying pie chart

The largest pieces of the pie come from readers who buy 0-9% of the books they read in a year (126) and readers who buy 90-99% of the books they read in a year (104).

When we look at distribution, we can see that responses cluster at the top and bottom of the scale.

Book Buying Habits chart

181 readers (35% of respondents) reported buying less than 20% of the books they read; 209 readers (40.5% of respondents) reported buying 80% or more of the books they read. This puts 75.7% of readers at the extremes, explaining the reverse bell curve-like pattern. This jibes with anecdotal data from the Book Riot community that tells us we have passionate library patrons and passionate book buyers. It’s interesting (and surprising, at least to me) that comparatiely few readers seem to do a mix of borrowing and buying. The data from this sample seems to indicate that readers tend to do one or the other.

Question 2: How much money do you spend on books in a year?

514 usable responses.

Range: $0 -$12,000

Mean: $718.73

Median: $400

Mode: $500

annual book budget graphic

Here’s what the full distribution looks like:

Book Budget Distribution

If we throw out the major outliers–the 8 readers who reported spending more than $3,000 per year on books–the mean budget decreases to $625.60, and variation within the distribution is more visible.

book budget modified


Without the outliers, it’s easier to see that most of these Book Riot readers spend $1,000 or less on books in a year. Indeed, 431 respondents (83.7%) reported an annual book budget of $1,000 or less.

Additional note of interest: When we conducted a poll about reading habits earlier this year, we found that Riot readers reported reading an average of 75 books per year. We can’t know what the overlap is between readers who completed that poll and readers who completed this one about book buying, but it makes sense on the face of it–if you read about 75 books a year and buy more than 80% of the books you read, a budget around $1,000 would work, especially with preferences for paperback and ebooks.

What do you make of these results? Anything unexpected here?


Check out other Riot polls:

Book Riot Readers’ 50 Favorite Novels

The 25 Most-Hated Books (by Book Riot Readers)

19 Books You’ve Been Meaning to Read FOREVER

20 Books You Pretend to Have Read

Top 10 Books You’re Embarrassed to Admit You’ve Read

20 Most-Loved Literary Characters

Are These the 13 Most Underrated Books?

20 Books You Love to Give as Gifts

Your 25 Favorite Authors of Color

The Book Riot 2013 Reading Habits Survey

The Great TBR Poll: Results

The Top 17 Books That Make You Feel Dumb