Sunday, April 03, 2005

Book buying up 23 per cent, report says
Canadian spending on books more than double the amount on live sporting events

Saturday, April 2, 2005 Page R7

Canadians are quick to boast about the quality of their writers, but perhaps it's time to talk about the quantity of the country's readers. A new report, Who Buys Books In Canada?, based on 2001 Statistics Canada survey information, reveals that Canadians spent $1.13-billion on books that year -- up 23 per cent from 1997 (or up 15 per cent after adjusting for inflation).

In fact, money spent on books is the third-highest category of cultural spending in the country, just after newspapers ($1.22-billion) and visits to movie theatres ($1.18-billion). Significantly more dollars are shelled out for books than are spent on live performing-arts events ($824-million) and more than double the amount spent on live sports events ($451-million).

"I think that a key message coming out of this is books are not obsolete, that $1.1-billion is not a market to be trifled with," said Kelly Hill, the president of the report's producer, Hill Strategies Research Inc.

But while the amount of money spent on books is impressive, less than half of Canadian households -- only 48 per cent -- purchased any books that year. That puts book buying fourth on the list of top cultural items or activities households spend their money on, following newspapers (63 per cent), movie tickets (61 per cent), and magazines and periodicals (54 per cent).

Still, this doesn't mean more than half the country doesn't spend time reading -- three of the top four cultural activities are reading-related activities. And although the study seems to indicate that 52 per cent of households report they don't buy books, Hill noted that the information compiled doesn't take into account books borrowed from libraries or from friends. The study also does not take into account what kinds of books are being purchased and can reflect both diet guides or literary fiction.

Across the country, more money was spent on books in Ontario ($465-million; or $212 per household, with one half of households reporting they spent money on books). The Atlantic provinces spent the least on books: $64-million, or $159 per household, with 45 per cent of households stating they purchased books.

There are seemingly more book lovers in the Prairie provinces than any other, with 53 per cent of households reporting book buying, for a total spending of $196-million, or $194 per household. Quebec, meanwhile, had the fewest number of households reporting book buying. Only 41 per cent of households admitted buying books, although total spending was the second highest, at $209-million, or $170 per household.

Interestingly, the report contradicts an image of the loner bookworm: Thirty-one per cent of the highest spenders on performing-arts events and 23 per cent of the top spenders on sports events also spent more than $200 on books.

"Bookish people tend to be active people, they are not bookish in the sense of being reclusive," said Hill. "That's a myth that's busted a bit here."

The Globe and Mail: Book buying up 23 per cent, report says

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