How many books do you have?

How many books do you have? by CK Van Dam

A true bibliophile would answer “Not enough.” But how many books does the average person own?, an organization specializing in market research and public polling*, set out to answer that question and other book-related questions.

Counting the 9% who say they own no physical books, at least 69% of Americans own no more than 100 books (6% are unsure how many they own). Another 25% own at least 100 books, including 4% who own between 500 and 1,000 books and 3% who own more than 1,000 volumes. Not surprisingly, the survey found that people with large libraries tend to be older (more time to accumulate books), wealthier (more money to buy books), and have more formal education (which often involves extensive reading).

The survey found that of those Americans who own 100 or more books, 61% have a postgraduate degree, 43% have a college degree, 31% have some college, and 18% have a high school diploma.

Another surprise, one factor that doesn’t have a stronger relationship with bookownership was having children at home. Parents of young children will probably disagree with that stat – the number of books that children accumulate seems endless, especially at bedtime!

The survey also asked how people sort their books. That, too, depends on how many books someone owns. Overall, 29% of bookowners need to organize their books. (I’m in that group.) People who do organize their books choose a variety of methods. The most popular method is sorting by genre or subject: 37% of people with 100 or more books sort by subject, while people with smaller book collections sort by book size or book color, by author, or by title.

Until I came across this survey, I’d never given much thought to how many books I own or how I sort them. Being an author, however, has impacted the number of books I purchase. While the internet is a good research source, there’s nothing like pulling a tome from the shelf that an expert in the field wrote.

* Methodology: This Daily Questions survey was conducted online on October 20 – 23, 2023 among 29,397 U.S. adults. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, U.S. census region, and political party.