BookNet: Canada’s Book Club Memberships Have Doubled This Year

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In its new report on Canadians and book clubs, BookNet reports that celebrity and the search for ‘the new Oprah’ is not as strong as many might expect. Some say they’re there to ‘talk about life.’

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By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Club Members Said They’re Not in It for the Wine
[dropcapT[/dropcap]he BookNet Canada statistical research service reports that between 2018 and the first three quarters of 2019, “the percentage of Canadian book buyers who belong to a book club or reading group jumped from 7 to 14 percent.”

As the organization points out, the driver may be assumed by many to be celebrity. BookNet itself has a page of articles from the last two years, each headlined with a “new Oprah?” question—”Is Obama the New Oprah?” and “Is Jenna Bush Hager the New Oprah?” and “Is Reese Witherspoon the New Oprah?” and so on.

But, in fact, the old Oprah may have less to worry about than such giddy excitement might indicate.

“Results from BookNet Canada’s surveying of Canadian book club members,” according to media messaging, “shows that less than half (47 percent) are members of a celebrity book club.

“Among these, Oprah reigns supreme (46 percent), followed by Emma Watson (26 percent), Emma Roberts (20 percent), and Sarah Jessica Parker and Reese Witherspoon tied at 17 percent each.”

The study, called  Reading Together: Book Clubs in Canada, also seems to have surprised researchers as to the motivations cited by those surveyed for joining clubs.

“Another myth busted by the study,” the BookNet staff writes, “is the stereotype of the in-it-for-the-wine book club.”

In terms of those who responded:

  • 64 percent of book club members reported that they joined their clubs mainly to talk about books
  • 56 percent said their main reason was to be exposed to new books
  • 50 percent cited meeting new friends as a lure
  • 39 percent said they’d like to meet up with existing friends
  • 31 percent said they’d joined a book club because they were interested in taking about life

In the question of how respondents chose their clubs, “The key influencers for members who suggested picks to their clubs were word-of-mouth (52 percent), bookstores (49 percent), and libraries (44 percent),” say the researchers.

Shaken out by the popularity of clubs’ various genres:

  • Adult fiction: 74 percent
  • Mysteries and/or thrillers: 60 percent
  • Adult nonfiction; 65 percent
  • True crime, biographies, memoirs: 44 percent each

The study is for sale at CAN$24.99 (US$18.80), but a sample of its findings can be found here in an Issuu format.

One of the more interesting findings in that sample is that while women were the majority of the survey’s book club members, “Those who belonged to three or more club were men.”


More from Publishing Perspectives on BookNet Canada and its research is here. And more from us on the Canadian market is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's 2019 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for trade and indie authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald.

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