i read constantly as in 4 to 6 hours a day. have kindle unlimited, prime,two paperwhites, one kindle keyboard, kindle app on laptop and pc and occ. buy paperbooks or go to library. my collection at home used to be in thousands but has dwindled a bit as i give paperbooks to friends but replace on kindle (not same titles.) total cost per year for all books and subscriptions is $400. that includes prime which is not just for books. i read really fast, two to four books a day. i do not keep reading books with poor writing, editing or formatting. avidreader
Lots of good free ebooks- Amazon, Archive.org, Project Gutenberg, libraries. Local St Vinnies has a great selection of used physical books, all types, low prices. Plus torrent sources for ebooks. I have more classics than I can read. My Voyage and Paperwhite are close to full, and FireHD and KindleKeyboard serves as audio books. Ah, if I could only retire and read.
I used to be a middle tier reader -- often buying book, either in electronic form or paperback, if the price was under $9.99 (even hardbacks on clearance!), but after being laid off 3 years ago, my choice changed.
I find it interesting that even though I have a new job, at almost the pay of my old one, I rarely buy books in any form. I use BookBub to find free books on Amazon -- so it's mostly self-published authors. Every once in a while, I'll buy a complete set if I like the author, but even then the pricepoint seems to be around $3.99 for single books.
On the other hand, I still buy very expensive books for my son -- who loves, loves, loves books (and would rather have than in paper form rather than e-form). And by expensive, I just spent $65 on a book he wanted.
Seems like the economy has permanently (semi-permanently?) affected my buying patterns for books.
I do look for value reads, but I also read on a Voyage. I read voraciously, like the second tier you describe, and I get books from sales and my public libraries, but I want a comfortable reading experience and for me that means a dedicated EBR. I love the page-turn buttons on my Voyage as it's less tiring (a key consideration for me) but would otherwise be happy with the latest Paperwhite.
Wow, Bufo, I think you're really onto something with this. It mirrors my own thoughts about where the overall book market is heading, but my thoughts were inchoate—they hadn't been articulated in such a clear way, as you've done here. The only thing I would add is that there are many top tier readers out there who are finding themselves strapped for cash (thanks to skyrocketing healthcare costs and property taxes), so they check out top tier books from their local library just as soon as they're published. If you live in a town with outrageously high property taxes, but a correspondingly high-spending library that always has a wealth of new hardcover novels from prestige publishers, then it only makes sense. I find myself at my local library almost every weekend—and if I can't find something there, there's always the Midtown Manhattan branch. I realize this behavior of mine doesn't do much to line the pockets of top-tier authors, but I also buy their ebooks for my various Kindles when I find those ebooks selling for under $9.99. That price-point seems to be the fulcrum for me on the tetter-totter decision of whether to buy a book or go to the library for it. I'm pretty sure that's Amazon's doing. I used to spend more money on books, but in those long ago days I also had fewer children to support and more disposable income. That's one of the hazards of being a paterfamilias in 21st century America, I suppose....
Hope you've been happy and well,
P.S. I'm about two-thirds of the way through (235 pages) a new novel I've been working on for the past year, a sort of continuation of the Crash Gordon series to be called The Book of Beezos. Any chance you'd like to read it pre-publication and help me catch a few typos? It's, in part, a satire of Amazon taking over the book publishing industry, so I'll completely understand if the subject matter makes you too squeamish to want to touch it. We freelancers have to be loyal to our corporate clients, after all... (but just how free are we if we can't lance them with some harmless satire every once in a while?).