Inside the Australian and New Zealand book industry

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Industry responds to Macquarie University readers survey

Author Melissa Lucashenko, Penguin Random House publisher Meredith Curnow and Avid Reader owner Fiona Stager participated in a panel on the Macquarie University survey of Australian readers at the Sydney Writers’ Festival on 27 May.

As previously reported by Books+Publishing, the survey of 3000 Australians found that 92% have read all or part of a book for pleasure or interest in the past 12 months, and that 43% of Australians bought a book in the month prior to the survey.

The survey also found that the most popular source of information about which books to read for pleasure is word-of-mouth (66.2% of respondents), followed by browsing in physical bookstores (52.8%), online book retailers and publishers (36.9%) and print newspapers and magazines (36.1%).

Curnow said she found the report ‘incredibly optimistic’, but noted that ‘the sales figures I see don’t match the optimism of this report’. She also spoke about the challenge for publishers to create word-of-mouth (‘how on earth do we get that word-of-mouth?’ she asked) and to promote books that are not bestsellers.

Stager said she was pleased to see the importance of browsing in physical bookstores acknowledged, but noted that a lot of readers were shopping online and borrowing books from friends.

Stager also highlighted the apparent contradiction in the results that found the majority of respondents believe books are worth more than their monetary value, but also that books are too expensive. People who fill out the survey could be ‘aspirational’, said Stager.

The panel also spoke about the challenges facing literary fiction, with over half of the respondents observing that they like literary fiction, but just 15% saying they read it for enjoyment.

Lucashenko suggested the problem might be that readers don’t find literary fiction relaxing enough, pointing to the survey’s finding that over 60% of respondents choose to read for relaxation.


Category: Local news