Become a member


August 23, 2023

BookUp: Reading research and book pricing

This year’s Australian Book Industry Conference, BookUp, offered fascinating insights into reading research, as well as trends in book pricing for trade publishing. Held in-person in Melbourne, as well as livestreamed to a national audience of publishers and industry professionals, the Conference covered urgent issues facing Australian publishers today.

Most pertinent to authors were the findings from Australia Reads’ Reading Research Review, which analysed 134 research articles and reports from 22 countries around the world in order to assess the benefits of reading, and where the gaps in knowledge lie. 

The findings for children showed that 89% agreed their favourite books were ones they’d picked out themselves, and, unsurprisingly, that children who were exposed to more storybooks showed a greater inclination to read for pleasure and had more advanced literacy skills as adolescents.

For teens, the top barriers to reading were the difficulty of choosing a good book (61%) followed by a lack of free time (56%). The influence of BookTok was foregrounded – 68% said BookTok had inspired them to read a book they would never have considered otherwise.

While there was less research available into adult readers than younger age groups, the findings showed that retirees are the most active participants in reading (80%) and that women are more likely to read for pleasure than men (75% to 68%).

As to the benefits of reading on our wellbeing, the research showed a 20% reduction in mortality for those who read books for at least 30 minutes a day, compared to those who did not read. Regular readers also had lower risks of being diagnosed with depression, had improved cognitive patterns, and scored lower on the loneliness scale. 

The complete research findings will be released over the coming months by Australia Reads – a not-for-profit collaboration between the Australian Library and Information Association, Australian Publishers Association, Australian Society of Authors and BookPeople – and will be used to inform a national reading campaign.

Trends in book pricing were also a hot topic for the day, as the cost of living crisis puts pressure on retail and printing prices are skyrocketing. General Manager of Nielsen BookData Australia, Bianca Whiteley, shared interesting insights into global and Australian markets – while there had been some movements in recommended retail prices in the children’s book category, overall Australian RRPs are less than New Zealand and United States markets, and slightly higher than in the UK. The average sell price across trade publishing has generally kept steady, and is not keeping up with CPI increases.

When Australian book buyers were surveyed about their buying habits, 3 in 5 indicated they shop around for the best price, with buyers aged between 35-44 the most likely to do so. Nevertheless, price has relatively little influence for readers when considering buying a book: the biggest influence is the author, followed by the book description, the consumer interest in the series, and the front cover.

The 2023 Publishing Industry Rising Star winner was also announced at the Conference – our warm congratulations to Tom Langshaw, Commissioning Editor at Pantera Press and regular publisher attendee of our Virtual Literary Speed Dating events. 

Thank you to the Australian Publishers Association for their invitation to attend the Conference.