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Friday, October 29, 2010

Your Book-Reading Habits

Last week I posted a three-question survey to learn about your book-buying habits. This wasn't idle curiosity--based on the raft of books coming out and my desire to add to their numbers, I have long wondered just how big the market is. Surveying readers of this blog has some utility--you all are the most avid consumers of all things zymurgical. I figured it would be a very bad thing if you didn't buy books, but we have to test these fears. The results are encouraging.

1. How many beer books do you own?
In 1977, there was exactly one way to learn about beer: buy Michael Jackson's book on the subject. In 2010, there are thousands. This question was designed to test whether or not books had become obsolete; if avid fans had abandoned them, hope is lost. I wanted to test intensity, too, so I broke it out into categories. Of the 163 respondents, only 11% didn't own any books (yay!). A third of you own more than seven (yah!), and two t The breakdown:

11% - None
28% - 1-3
26% - 4-6
35% - 7 or more

2. Which topics interest you enough to buy a book?
Avid beer fans appear to be generally interested in the world of beer. None of the six topics fared poorly, but three were more popular. I take this also to be very good news. Here are the results, and since you could answer more than one, totals exceed 100% (the percentage indicates the proportion of respondents endorsing the item):

65% - Homebrewing
60% - Beer guides
59% - History and culture
38% - Technical info
33% - General beer info
33% - Business of beer

3. Do you subscribe to beer magazines?
This final question was designed to test a theory of mine. Beer mags are quite popular. Draft Magazine has about 250,000 subscribers, All About Beer 100,000. I wondered if that was a good proxy for beer fan intensity, or rather represented a different, overlapping demographic. Blog readers like their news fast and local, whereas mag readers seem to have a more national view. And sure enough, two-thirds of you don't subscribe to any magazines. So, from a book-selling perspective, that's probably a slightly different group and probably have slightly different interests.

Dunno if this was useful to you, but I found it most interesting. Thanks all who took the time to fill out the survey.


  1. I own no beer books. I will purchase at least one of Pete Brown's. The advert compares PBrown to Bill Bryson; I own / have read / have enjoyed every book Bryson has published.

    I will purchase other beer books.
    I am interest in your top recommendations in the categories you cited.

    I read a gazillion books before so much useful information became available on the Internet. In spite of the availability of soft information, I would rather read and markup / highlight a hardcopy than read the same book of interest on my [under utilized] Kindle or in soft copy from my harddrive.

  2. Jack, I tend to follow writers, and here are a few good ones:

    Clearly, Michael Jackson's works are great--Beer Companion or Great Beers of Belgium. Current reliables include Randy Mosher and Stan Hieronymus. Amber, Gold, and Black by Martyn Cornell is a great book about the history of British Styles. I also loved Jeff Sparrow's book on Wild Ales, and am much enjoying the new Yeast book by White and Zainasheff.

    Others feel free to weigh in with your faves.

  3. Beer Books = 39
    Subscriptions = 3 (Imbibe, Brew yur Own, Zymurgy)
    Topics = I've covered all topics in detail.

    I missed the survey... ;-}

  4. Oh! Your reading Jamil's book! Good job Jeff. Jamil's a nice guy.

  5. It's a great book. I'm only about 100 pages in, and I'd already give it a strong recommendation--the rest could be blank pages and it would get a thumbs up. Good stuff--and not just for the homebrewer. Lots of important science that everyone would appreciate understanding.

  6. Yesterday was my birthday. I received 2 beer books and issues of 2 beer magazines. Plus, my local had Pliny The Elder on tap.

    That celebrating.