Are books good value for money? (Short answer: Yes)

Every year since 2012, we’ve run a study called Understanding the UK Children’s Book Consumer, in which we examine the role of books in the lives of 0-17s, to get a sense of attitudes toward reading among children as well as what else is competing for their time and how parents, children and teenagers find, choose and buy books. While most questions are repeated each year to show long term trends, we do add new questions each year, addressing pertinent areas for the children’s book market. In recent years, pricing and the value of books has certainly been a hot topic throughout the industry, so for the 2023 survey, we brought in questions about the value for money of children’s books and price expectations by different formats. And it was good news – books are broadly viewed as good value for money! It’s always nice to have a headline result that you can wholeheartedly agree with.

Of course as is often the case, there are nuances and variations, and not EVERYONE surveyed said that books for 0-17s were good value. But compared with other leisure items that we asked about, printed books came out on top, with half of respondents deeming them good or excellent value, compared to just over one in ten choosing poor value, shown in the graph below. Audiobooks were also viewed relatively positively, behind toys/board games. Across the different leisure items for children, the only two where a larger proportion chose poor value vs good value were (very slightly) cinema tickets and (more significantly) magazines.

We can also view perceived value by how engaged the child is with books overall, based on segments derived from the results of the study. Unsurprisingly, it’s the ‘Superfans’ who view physical books as good/excellent value in the highest numbers, shown below, although ‘Distractibles’ aren’t far behind. While the former are, perhaps obviously, heavier readers with positive attitudes, the latter skew more toward being medium readers, with a large share wishing they read more but at the same time showing a preference for doing other things. Apart from print books, they were the most likely to report good/excellent value for money across the various leisure items and were the only group where the proportion choosing poor value never exceeded the good value voices. So their attention is spread across various media and activities but that doesn’t seem to minimise the perceived value, and it’s good to see books emerge as the value victor in the crowded ‘Distractible’ landscape.

The only segment where print books didn’t garner the highest numbers for good/excellent value was ‘Antis’, who are generally infrequent readers with negative attitudes; for them, toys/board games have the highest value for money on average, but across the board they lagged behind other segments. For five of the items included, their poor value opinions outranked the good value ones: audiobooks to the smallest extent, and more significantly music CDs, video games, cinema tickets and especially magazines, while printed books and toys/board games still skewed more toward good value. They may trail other segments but it’s good to see that even the most disengaged readers are still more likely to say good than poor value when it comes to books (and lower proportions reflect a wider trend across leisure items, not limited to books).

A main positive takeaway is that those who read and buy the most books strongly see the value in those books, which of course continues the cycle of book-buying, but with half of ‘Potentials’ and nearly a quarter of ‘Antis’ seeing books as good value for money but not reading as much, how do you transition that perceived value to more engagement with books overall? We cover value for money by age and format as well as price expectations in the full report, alongside more about the segments, encouraging reading, purchase influences and a whole lot more; a preview with the table of contents can be viewed here, and contact if you’d like to know more or purchase the report.