What DO Teens Want?

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Publisher’s Weekly recently published an article, “What Do Teens Want?” by Carol Fitzgerald that’s been receiving a lot of attention from librarians serving teens.  Fitzgerald names the growth of the Young Adult literary market (a 5.1% projected sales increase) with higher grossing areas for specific genres often fueled by the YA market (like scifi/fantasy which is supposed to experience a 13% increase).

While the author acknowledges that certainly there are plenty of adults interested in these books because of the recent phenomenon of books like the Twilight saga, the fact remains that teens are the ones causing that very phenomena, placing a great deal of power in the hands of this specific demographic.  Publishers are naturally very interested in a group of such heavy readers as they are desperate to figure out how to market to them in five and ten years.


Using the readership of teenreads.com (230,000 viewers a month), a survey was given to answer some burning questions.  Naturally, as any librarian knows, the responders were largely female (96%) due to the site’s emphasis on fiction and the fact that most YA fiction is read by girls (at least to the point that they’d want to talk about).  The survey also had a mostly younger teen audience (only 37% were 16 to 18 years of age, the remainder younger than this) so these results might be of particular relevance to middle school librarians.

Because of the fact that it’s obvious to any school librarian how shockingly overscheduled kids are, I was most interested in the number of books respondents reported to read and during what time periods.  Forty-one percent reported reading over 20 books during the summer, with 26% reading 11-20 books and 18% reading six to 10 books.  That’s 85% of these students reading at least six books over the summer.  Granted, the readership of teenreads.com I doubt is comprised of casual readers, but nevertheless it shows how kids will read when more time is available.

But these readers don’t stick to just YA authors.  They listed Mitch Albom, Jane Austen, Meg Cabot (who I actually consider more of a YA author, but whatever), Agatha Christie, Mary Higgins Clark, Suzanne Collins, Michael Crichton, Janet Evanovich, John Grisham, Charlaine Harris, Sophie Kinsella, Dean Koontz, George Orwell, Chuck Palahniuk, James Patterson, Jodi Picoult, David Sedaris, Nicholas Sparks and John Steinbeck as favorite adult authors that they’d consider as well.  Isn’t that an interesting mix?  We have a lot of these folks on the shelf, but I’m going to need to check and make sure we’ve got a complete oeuvre. 

And as for the format (hardcover v. paperback) they prefer, it seems close enough that I don’t need to worry with 79% liking paperbacks and 74% preferring hardcover.  Only 6% like ebooks as their format right now, so I’ll be interested to see if that number grows after Barnes and Noble starts heavily marketing the Nook, aka their version of the Kindle in stores.  All of my teens LOVE hanging out at Barnes & Noble which is the place to see and be seen.

With the publishing industry as the focus of the survey, naturally the book buying habits of these kids were their focus.  Forty-four percent of kids indicated that their book buying habits had changed due to the economy with 54% naming visiting the library as their main habit change.  Sixty-eight percent share the cost of book purchasing with their parents (go parents!).

What really grabbed me was the data on “what would enhance their shopping experience”.  More books to chose from (63% came in first) but check out what was second – 48% wanted more book reviews and recommendations from “experts”.  Isn’t that interesting?  It’s important to be reminded how overwhelming a bookstore is for someone who doesn’t read all the professional journals and can pick out the good presses and know the latest reviews.  Events with favorite authors came in as important to 45% and comfortable places to sit (check!) got 40% of people clicking the radio button.  With any luck, our new “book discussion” group (which has as its mission booktalking books to each other rather than reading the same book, important as 83% of respondents named peer recommendations as the reason they will read a book) will fit this bill but I really need to think about adding in reviews (maybe I can use Titlewave to grab them?) to the display process.  Hmmm…

Tweaking the library webpage also came to mind as well as taking advantage of the MARC record field where we can embed companion websites.  Over 85% of teens reported visiting the websites of their favorite authors for information about upcoming titles and 65% would love to see the author in person at an in store event.  Only 19% utilized social networking sites for author interaction (and I couldn’t help thinking of my AWESOME new Facebook friend, Scott Westerfeld!) so clearly I’m a passé geek or total pioneer in author interaction.  I’m leaning toward the former.


Blogs (I’m guessing author blogs?) and specifically “book and reader blogs” were also named as sources of interaction or information (32% and 31% respectively).  Maybe the author website can go in the MARC record but we could have a section on the website for the blogs that might be the most popular (with a link to a screencast on how to use Google Reader for efficient browsing).  Still 58% of them don’t read author blogs at all, and my curiosity is piqued – is this because they don’t know how awesome they are? Because they don’t read other blogs?  Respondents have great taste in who they do read – authors named were Libba Bray, Meg Cabot, Ally Carter, P.C. Cast, Cassandra Clark, Zoey Dean, Sarah Dessen, John Green, Richelle Mead, Stephenie Meyer, Christopher Paolini, James Patterson, Tamora Pierce, Sarah Shepard, Melissa Walker and Scott Westerfeld.  Considering most of these are in my “Author Blogs” list, I feel that discerning book readers are good blog readers as well!

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August 07, 2011 5:16 AM delete

So you're basically saying there's still hope and young girls read something beyond Twilight similar crap.

Good.

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