US Consumers Say 'Yes' to Books

Article excerpt

America's fascination with cable television and electronic media apparently does not come at the expense of the first of the three R's: reading.

Consumers bought more than 1.6 billion books in 1994, or close to 17 books per household, reports a study released in August by Veronis, Suhler & Associates, an investment-banking firm in New York. The survey notes that unit sales of consumer books increased 3.6 percent in 1994 - the largest jump since 1989.

Such purchases continue to fuel the multibillion-dollar book-publishing industry, where sales are expected to increase fairly steadily through the end of the decade, notes the ninth-annual survey. The $15.2 billion consumers spent on books in 1994 will likely reach $21.6 billion by 1999, the survey says.

"The fact that ordinary consumer books are growing at the rate they are kind of disproves the whole theory that America has become illiterate or that we're all zombies watching our computer screens," says Lawrence Crutcher, a managing director at Veronis.

Mr. Lawrence attributes the growth to large companies "getting their publishing programs better focused" and to improvements in distribution channels, where superstores are making "large quantities of titles available to the average American. …