Giving the gift of books

Over the last five years, one in ten print books bought in the UK have been intended as Christmas gifts, according to Nielsen BookData’s Books & Consumers survey. Of course, several genres will exceed that stat – some books might as well be released with Christmas bow already attached, as associated with the season as they are. Children’s annuals skew the most in that direction, with 60% bought as Christmas gifts, and nearly three-quarters bought as any kind of gift. Most children’s categories over-index compared to the total print market, with the total children’s sector coming to 16%, rising to 20% of pre-school books. Only YA fiction and educational books fall below the overall Christmas market share within the children’s sector.

YA fiction even sits below the adult fiction figure, by 0.3%, although it does fit better here, as the fiction genres range from 3% to 5% bought as Christmas gifts, with graphic novels and sagas the only categories to hit 5%. Classic fiction and crime & thriller sit at the bottom of the list for fiction, but across the whole print market, there are a few genres with lower impact from Christmas, including the aforementioned children’s educational books.

However, even kids’ textbooks don’t have the very lowest share coming from Christmas gifting. That impressive feat has been achieved by business/economics books, with only 2% of purchases over the last five years intended as Christmas gifts, and just 6% bought as any kind of gift. The genre is joined on the low end of the gifting spectrum by other practical areas of non-fiction: fitness & diet, self-help and computing & IT all rank below fiction genres when it comes to share bought as Christmas gifts. That’s balanced by nine genres that exceed the print market numbers, ranging from 11% of film/TV/music up to a quarter of humour and nearly a third of general reference (which includes the annual editions of ‘Guinness World Records’).

Those non-fiction Christmas gifts are most often bought for spouses/partners, followed by parents buying for children and then children buying for parents. Fiction is more evenly split across partners and parents, at 26% and 23% respectively, and buying for friends takes a higher cut here than in non-fiction, although still behind buying for one’s own children. And of course, switching to the children’s sector is where parental buying takes the lead, at nearly half of children’s books bought for Christmas. That means altogether, more than a third of books bought as Christmas gifts over the last five years have been parents buying for their children, trailed by grandparents (22% of children’s books, and 14% overall) and spouses/partners (12% of bookish Christmas gifts).

While I’m sure there are plenty of parents out there buying books for their grown-up children, Christmas purchases on the whole definitely skew younger, with a quarter of books bought as Christmas gifts going to 0-4s, and more than half to kids aged 12 and under. Teens and early 20s tend to be the least likely to be bought for, and then about a third of Christmas gifts are split across age bands 25 and up. That will vary by genre naturally, and among the prominent gifting areas, some stats stand out: just over one in five cookbook Christmas gifts have been bought for 25-34s, and 55-64s have received the highest share of auto/biography gifts. Nearly 40% of annuals have been bought for kids aged 5-8, while humour tends to be one of the more universal gifting options, with fairly even shares across the age bands ranging from 25 to 64.

That’s the beauty of books for Christmas, there’s something for everyone!


Based on data from Nielsen BookData’s monthly Books & Consumers survey. For more information, please contact