Who Buys From Bookstores?

Last month, I related a story about a visit to a local indie bookstore, a business I love supporting, but couldn’t find any of the books I was looking for in stock. Fortunately, they did recommend a couple titles I had never heard of, but it made me wonder about your experiences.

Like many retail industries, readers have increasingly purchased their books online rather than in physical bookstores. I asked you about your own buying habits, and the results are eye opening.

More than half of you don’t buy any books in physical bookstores. Less than one in ten buy all of the books that way.

I certainly see the same results with sales through online retailers like Apple, Amazon, and Kobo far surpassing physical books sold through stores (though I make sure my books are available for any store to order). Even at physical stores like Barnes and Noble, more of my sales go through their online store than their brick and mortar.

But I also wondered if you still browse stores even if you don’t buy from them.

More than six in ten readers report they frequently visit bookstores, even if they end up not buying from them.

I love bookstores, but I do wonder how many will survive.​​

Some reader comments from the survey:

I used to shop at physical bookstores more often, but there are none close to where we live now. Most of my reading material comes from the local library or online booksellers.

I love having brick and mortar bookstores. I think they offer more than a place to browse for books, but provide a sort of sanctuary away from the hustle and bustle of life. I usually get all my books at the library. I think libraries over the years have become more like a community resource for many social and public services.

Over the years one favorite bookstore after another has closed its doors. Sorry to see them go.

Before the Kindle reader came out, I would always buy my books at a bookstore. However, I find the online bookstores more of a convenience at this point and love the fact that I can click one button and automatically have my book waiting for me.

I used to love browsing bookstores. Now, I can’t even find one.

Join the conversation and add your own comments below.


  1. Lou Ann Gioffre on August 10, 2022 at 5:37 pm

    As I age,
    I find that I can no longer stand for an hour or more perusing books. Especially with arthritis rearing it’s ugly head ! It would
    Help if bookstores would provide shopping carts for us to hold on to. I get all of my books from the library, or my Kindle . I do miss getting my books at the bookstore while enjoying a latte and a lemon square!

    Lou Ann Gioffre, a retired librarian

  2. Pat on September 9, 2022 at 1:34 pm

    I have gone to bookstores at least twice a month since first purchasing a book with my own money (birthday gift) at the age of 5. (It was a children’s book about the first humans.) I send books as baby presents, birthday presents, and holiday gifts. Five bookstores in this mid-sized city have closed since I moved here decades ago, and I miss each of them. My children and grandchildren are all readers, mostly of physical books. I can’t stand to read from a screen – have to do enough of that at work – far prefer holding a book. Thanks for all your news!

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Reader Surveys

Each month, I survey readers on a random topic. I might ask about books, reading, and authors, as this is my primary focus. Some months, the survey focuses on the mountain region that has been my home. Other months, the query will be something completely random. The debate over mayonnaise might be the most contested ever.

In time for the monthly newsletter, I summarize and share the overall results and some of the highlights I learned. To protect privacy, I don't attempt connect the data in anyway to individuals and then delete the responses.

The following is the result of one of those surveys. And if you want to participate in this month's survey, just click the button.