Readings Survey Results

Like me you’ve probably done a number of surveys, wondering what they were for and what happened to the information gleaned from them. Well, we recently sent out our own survey to the 39,000 people subscribed to our enews and Readings Monthly (you can subscribe here) and we had an overwhelming 10% response rate – the company that was helping us prepare this survey said that a good response was usually 2–3%. We also surveyed a sample of the wider Melbourne population so that we could compare a general book shopper to the Readings customer.

The reason for the survey was that the book industry, like many media industries, is under a lot of pressure: to be honest, we haven’t been immune – our sales have been significantly down over the last two years. So, we wanted to uncover what your attitudes were to a range of things, including how you read and bought your books, whether you liked what we did, and what we could do to improve.

We also asked you some personality questions – some people found these intrusive, but others found them revelatory! From that, we discovered that only 5% of Readings customers are ‘traditional’ (conservative), compared with 16% of the general population. 80% of you are over 35 and 24% are between 56 and 65. Most of you work (full-time or part-time), with 34% of you employed in culture, the arts and academia. 82% of you read books several times a week compared with 37% in the general population. 74% of you also like to venture out to eat and drink every week, compared with just 47% of the general population.

You like to read reviews and browse: 71% of you said that you come into the shop with no specific product in mind. You’re tech savvy, with 92% of you buying books online versus 60% of the general population, and most of you do this for convenience. Though, only 6% of you are committed ebook readers, which is significantly less than the 28% of you who prefer to download your music. You support Australian writers, with 69% of you buying Australian fiction compared to 24% of the general population.

In music you like classical, jazz, alternative and folk. A significant number are now buying LPs – 7.71% compared with 2.4% of the general population. You’re also much more likely to buy books as gifts. You’re not all as loyal as you used to be: in a 2005 survey, 73% said they bought more than half their books at Readings compared with only 46% now.

In spite of this, when you do visit Readings, you like the unique and specialised product range. 98% said you were satisfied with the experience you’d had in store, and that Readings is a comfortable and enjoyable place to shop. 90% of you said we add to Melbourne’s literary and cultural identity and 70% see us as an active community participant.

At the end of the survey, people could make a comment; 3756 did and, of those, 3700 were very positive. So it seems that, by and large, you love us – but you shop around, mostly online and overseas. The opportunity for us now is to see how we can further add value to your in store and online shopping experience, so thank you to those of you who took the time to complete our survey.


Mark Rubbo is the Managing Director of Readings