Christian book sales have remained flat year-to-date in 2015 compared to the same period in 2014. However, some subcategories have seen significant growth—sales of Christian juvenile non-fiction and Christian fiction grew 7% and 8%, respectively, in the same time period. And Bible stories about the Old Testament are driving a 30% growth rate in the Christian juvenile non-fiction category year-over-year, according to Nielsen BookScan.
To help the industry understand Christian book buyers and identify growth opportunities for the category in 2015 and beyond, Nielsen hosted its first Christian Book Summit in Nashville on Oct. 23, 2015. This one-day summit explored who these readers are and what other forms of media and entertainment they engage with every day.
So who are these religious readers? In the session, “Engaged Christians and the Evolving Book Market,” Carl Kulo, the U.S. market research director at Nielsen Book, highlighted four key consumer segments:
- Unengaged: “Chreaster” Christians celebrate Christmas and Easter. They make up 70%-75% of the U.S. population and 39% of the Christian market (in terms of population).
- Semi-engaged: These Christians pick-and-choose where to participate. They’re more involved than unengaged Christians but not fully engaged with their faith.
- Liturgical: These consumers are mostly Catholic and focused on their parish life.
- Engaged: Faith and worship are integral to their lives, and they are heavy Bible readers, representing the bulk of Christian book buyers.
“Your market [the book market] is not a homogenous market, and that’s certainly true for the Christian market,” said Kulo. Understanding these different Christian segments’ habits can help those across the industry better reach their best customers. For example, the biggest purchase influencer for Engaged Christians is TV or TV ads, followed by radio. So author appearances on morning talk shows could prove particularly useful to reach these eager and engaged consumers.
It turns out DVDs and Blu-Rays also remain an important segment for faith-based consumers despite the decline in disc sales as consumers transition to digital and subscription streaming platforms. Graham Gee, vice president and general manager for home entertainment, Nielsen, noted that 37% of disc buyers are faith-based fans in his presentation “Insights on the Christian Consumer from Nielsen Home Entertainment.”
The Christian Book Summit touched on crucial topics in the Christian content market with insightful discussions and brand new segmentation research. Attendees walked away with actionable insights and an invaluable opportunity to network with industry executives.
Building on the success of this year’s book summits, Nielsen will host its first-ever Romance Book Summit in 2016.