Book Discovery Landscape Becomes More Complicated as Reader Behavior Fractures

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When it comes to book discovery, things are going to get more complicated before they get simpler.

Reader behavior is in flux and the ways in which people engage with and discover new content has grown exponentially, according to data from Bowker presented by the company’s vice president of publishing services Kelly Gallagher at the Digital Book World Discoverability and Marketing.

Here’s some food for thought from Gallagher’s presentation:

– In 2011, nearly half of consumers changed their book-buying behavior (chart below)
– 39% of books are sold online, 26% in stores, and the rest in nearly a dozen other ways (chart below)
– People discover new books in up to 44 different ways

Perhaps most daunting is that e-reader owners, tablet owners, online book shoppers, customers of different retailers, people of all demographics, readers of all genres are all discovering books in different ways.

Imagine the complexity: a 27-year-old female romance reader from suburban Indianapolis who reads on a tablet computer but spends most of her time browsing the Web on her laptop versus a 43-year-old female romance reader living in Los Angeles who reads and buys exclusively on her e-reader. They’re both romance readers and female, but couldn’t be more different otherwise when it comes to how they discover and read books — and reaching them takes different marketing tactics.

Gallagher says that book marketers should begin their strategic thinking by focusing on the reader that they want to reach and knowing where they can find them and what kinds of marketing they respond to best.

For instance, tablet owners discover new books through free excerpts about 15% of the time; but readers of young adult fiction discover new books through the same way about 6% of the time. So marketers of young adult fiction have a lot to think about when they want to reach readers who read on tablets.

Amid all the change in how readers read and discover books, one thing has remained constant: in-person, personal recommendations are the No. 1 way people discover books, no matter who they are or how they read.

No. 1 way women 30-to-44-years-old discover new books: in-person, personal recommendations (~18% of new books discovered this way)

No. 1 way consumers find out about young-adult fiction: in-person, personal recommendations (~18% of new books discovered this way)

No. 1 way online shoppers discover new books: in-person, personal recommendations (~15% of new books discovered this way)

No. 1 way tablet readers discover new books: in-person, personal recommendations (~18% of new books discovered this way)

No. 1 way e-reader readers discover new books: in-person, personal recommendations (~18% of new books discovered this way)

Changes in Book-Buying Habits

Changes in Where People Buy Books

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6 thoughts on “Book Discovery Landscape Becomes More Complicated as Reader Behavior Fractures

  1. Very interesting data. Octavio Kulesz has a very interesting study on a similar subject. It’s a little scary to think that instead of taking advantage of e-commerce (globalization) we are on a war of technologies, DRM, prices… Instead of working in a more limited business model. Technology is constantly changing, habits of reading to ¿so? It’s a very complex phenomen.

  2. Two issues here this makes me wonder about:

    1. Is the 51% that didn’t change mostly people who either don’t have anything to do with ebooks and/or people who just don’t read much? (ie, how much are they in touch with the modern world?). Maybe better put, what is going on with that group. That’s the biggest segment in the market…

    2. As interesting as this data is, the marketplace and the connection with technology for consumers is changing so fast, I’m gonna guess this information is now almost outmoded and only partially meaningful. After Christmas when another 20 – 30 million people are using digital reading media everything will have changed.

  3. >Amid all the change in how readers read and discover books, one thing has remained constant: in-person, personal recommendations are the No. 1 way people discover books, no matter who they are or how they read.

    As a librarian, that is so encouraging to read. A good portion of what I do is help people find their next book (i.e., offer “in-person, personal recommendations”). To anyone who thinks that libraries are becoming obsolete, or that they shouldn’t be an important part of the book industry as it changes in response to the introduction of eBooks, this statistic should be a huge wake-up call.

  4. Book discovery for readers would be so much easier if RR Bowker allowed the public to search their database of upcoming releases.

    I know I can go to a library and access the database (if the library pays for access — my public library no longer does), but it would be much more customer-friendly if I could do so from home. If publishers were serious about making it easier for readers to find new books, they would force Bowker to open this resource to the public. And Bowker should restore the search agent email function they used to have but no longer do.

    The same goes for Amazon — at one time many years ago, Amazon allowed readers to save their search criteria, and when a new title was listed that matched the reader’s criteria, Amazon would dispatch an email to the reader. They no longer offer that service and for the life of me, I cannot understand why.

    I mean, aren’t they in the business of selling books? Why make it harder for readers to find the books they want to (buy and) read?

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