Although books are now sold through more channels than ever before, a new survey found that the vast majority of American adults still shop for books at bookstores. The survey, sponsored by the ad firm Spier New York, showed that 68% of book buyers who bought a book within the last year purchased it in a bookstore. Men are slightly more likely than women to go to bookstores, with 72% of men buying a book at bookstores, compared to 65% of women.

The growing popularity of alternative outlets for books was also evident in the report, which found that 43% of customers bought a book through a department store or discount store and 23% bought a book online. The move to more online book buying is being driven by convenience and cost savings, said Tom McCartin, president of Spier.

While readers may be looking for discounts online, affluent customers are more likely to use the Internet to purchase books than lower-income readers. The survey found that 40% of respondents with incomes of more than $100,000 bought a book online, compared to only 13% of buyers with income below $35,000. People with high incomes are also more likely to be heavy readers, with 43% of respondents with incomes over $100,000 reporting that they read 10 books or more annually, compared to only 23% of people earning $35,000 or less.

The favorite format of readers is hardcover, with the survey finding that 41% of books read were hardcovers. Older readers in particular like hardcovers, with 45% of readers over 55 saying they mostly read hardcovers.

An encouraging finding for bookstores was that young people still are going to bookstores. The survey found that 71% of people 18 to 34 bought a book in a bookstore, and 73% of 35-to-44-year-olds purchased a book through a bookstore, while 62% of people 55 and older bought a book at a bookstore. But younger people were much more likely to have downloaded a book or listened to a podcast than their elders. According to the survey, 12% of respondents 18 to 34 said they have either downloaded a book or listened to a book-related podcast, compared to 4% of those 55 and older. In all, 8% of respondents said they have downloaded a book or listened to a podcast.

The survey is the first in a series sponsored by Spier that will examine the book-buying habits of Americans. "We want to help publishers and booksellers better understand who their customers are," said Kim Hadney, v-p, account director for Spier. The first survey was conducted by TNS Intelligence as part of its Express Research Program and was based on responses from 813 readers.