‘Young Adult’ Books Attract Growing Numbers of Adult Fans

NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ—Sept. 13, 2012—More than half the consumers of books classified for young adults aren’t all that young. Fully 55 percent of buyers of works that publishers designate for kids aged 12 to 17 (nicknamed YA book) are 18 or older, with the largest segment aged 30 to 44. Accounting for 28 percent of sales, these adults aren’t just purchasing for others; when asked about the intended recipient, they report that 78 percent of the time they are purchasing books for their own reading.

The insights are courtesy of “Understanding the Children’s Book Consumer in the Digital Age,” an ongoing biannual study from Bowker Market Research that explores the changing nature of publishing for kids.

“The investigation into who is reading YA books began when we noticed a disparity between the number of YA e-books being purchased and the relatively low number of kids who claim to read e-books,” said Kelly Gallagher, vice-president of Bowker Market Research. “The extent and age breakout of adult consumers of these works was surprising. And while the trend is influenced to some extent by the popularity of The Hunger Games, our data shows it’s a much larger phenomenon than readership of this single series.”

Indeed, 30 percent of respondents reported they were reading works in “The Hunger Games” series. However, the remaining 70 percent of readers reported a vast variety of titles (over 220), only two of which commanded more than five percent of overall sales—“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” and “Breaking Dawn.”

“Although best sellers lead, there’s a long tail of rich reading that has interesting implications for the publishers of YA books in terms of discovery and consumer relationships,” said project editor Kristen McLean.

The trend is good news for publishers as these adult consumers of YA books are among the most coveted demographic of book consumers overall. Additional insights from the Bowker study show these readers are:

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