"The Meyer 4%": First Six Weeks of 2008 vs. 2009 Category Market Share

As the recession starts to bite, one of the questions we’ve had is whether we would start to see changes in the kinds of books people buy. Would economizing readers eschew Travel books while going after the career planning guides in Business or Education? Jan/Feb is a good time to do analysis like this: the holiday rush is over, people are more likely to be purchasing for themselves, and so spending is more likely to be truly discretionary rather than obligatory (i.e. gift purchases).

The first treemap graph shows market share by units soldthe size of each box shows the % of units sold by that category relative to the whole. (We use treemaps because they allow more “slices” to be visible than a pie chart.) The colours show whether the catagory has gained or lost share (green = gain, red = loss). The numbers show how much of a gain or loss has taken place (in %), comparing the first 6 weeks of sales for 2009 vs. the same period in 2008. It makes it easy to show that even though Fiction has lost the most share (1.58%) between 2008 and 2009, it is still by far the largest category.

(Just a reminderthis does not show that Fiction had 1.58% fewer sales than last year, but that its sales represented 1.58% less of the total market.)

We were quite surprised to see few categories with significant changes in overall share. Only two categories, Fiction and Juvenile Fiction, show a change of more than 1%. The gain in Juvenile Fiction share will henceforth be know as “The Stephenie Meyer 4%” and is likely responsible for Fiction’s 1.58% contraction as adult fiction buyers cross over into Juvenile/YA.

Most of the smaller shifts can be linked to the performance of 1 or 2 books.

  • The 0.39% gain in Biography and Autobiography is linked to Barack Obama’s two books, Dreams from my Father and The Audacity of Hope and a film tie-in resurgence for John Grogan’s Marley & Me.
  • The -0.93% drop in Body, Mind & Spirit in 2009 reflects the strong performance of Eckhart Tolle’s Oprah-powered A New Earth in 2008.
  • The -0.41% shrinkage of Health & Fitness is tied to the strong 2008 numbers posted by Mehmet Oz’s YOU: Staying Young and YOU: On a Diet.
  • Travel’s -0.52% shrinkage is the result of the film tie-in performance of John Krakauer’s Into the Wild in 2008.

The second graph shows the same categories, but looking at market share by dollars sold. Again, Fiction and Juvenile fiction show the big swap in share. Mind, Body & Spirit’s loss of A New Earth in 2009 is more keenly felt in dollars. The growth in Non-Classified and Photography are the result of more calendar product being tracked in 2009. Most of that shows up in Non-Classified and the rest in Photography.