Why Do People Buy Books?

Why Do People Buy Books?I’ve been reporting on observations that Jellybooks has made about readers after collecting data about when, where and how they read. Do readers rant or rave about books? Do they read fast or slow? Do they even finish the books they begin reading?

One of the more unique phenomena we observed was that there are books that sell well but are not read, or at least they appear not to be read by many of the people who buy or otherwise acquire them. Our first reaction was to ask, “Can we trust the data?” But we then came to the conclusion that, indeed, we could (more on data integrity, sampling bias and statistical validity in a future post).

Having convinced ourselves that the observations were genuine, we started wondering as to the reasons and started thinking in more depth about the question, “What motivations do readers have for buying specific books?” Below, we outline some of our thinking on this topic, which is also a manifesto of sorts for future research.

Much more.


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What a Pulitzer Prize Does for a Book’s Amazon Sales Rank (Money)
Think print is dead? You’ve clearly never won a Pulitzer. The Sympathizer: A Novel by Viet Thanh Nguyen — which tells the story of a Vietnamese undercover communist agent in Los Angeles and the fall of the South Vietnamese government in 1975 — won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction Monday, and soon after began winning a very different kind of award: cold hard cash. When the Pulitzers were first announced (just after 3 p.m. on Monday), the novel was ranked #27,587 overall on Amazon. As of 9 a.m. Tuesday, it had sky-rocketed to #88 overall, and #1 in Spies & Political Thrillers.

Canadian Libraries’ Progress on Ebook Pricing (Pub Perspectives)
“We are advocating for a hybrid of existing pricing models that introduces fairness and flexibility” into what Canada’s libraries pay for ebooks. And a consortium of some 30 library systems is making headway.

Dummies Turns 25 with New Look: In Print and Online (Pub Perspectives)
As the “For Dummies” series from Wiley reaches its 20th anniversary, the iconic brand will be redesigned for the modern how-to market.

Numbers and the Magic of Measuring the Right Thing (Seth Godin)
What you measure usually gets paid attention to, and what you pay attention to, usually gets better. Numbers supercharge measurement, because numbers are easy to compare. Numbers make it difficult to hide. And hence the problem. Income is easy to measure, and so we fall into the trap that people who make more money are better, or happier, or somehow more worthy of respect and dignity.

Samsung Safety Screen App Claims to Protect Your Kids’ Eyes When E-Reading (Teleread)
Samsung has just updated an Android app that it makes available to all Android users via the Google Play Store: the Samsung Safety Screen app. This “helps children hold the device at an ideal safe distance from their eyes.”

Bologna Visitor Numbers Increased 9.2% in 2016 (Bookseller)
The number of people attending the Bologna Children’s Book Fair increased 9.2 percent this year compared to 2015, with foreign visitor attendance growing 16.8 percent, according to the organizers. The number of Italian visitors was also up, increasing 4.1 percent. The number of exhibitors this year totalled 1,278, coming from 74 countries around the world.

Postscript on Sci-Hub: The University Press Edition (Scholarly Kitchen)
The list goes on, which raises several points. The first is that the “Sci” of Sci-Hub is misleading, as about 80 percent of all university press (UP) monographs are in the humanities and social sciences. But the more important point is that the argument that Sci-Hub and its brethren are striking out against avaricious commercial publishers simply doesn’t hold up when not-for-profit organizations like university presses, most of which are subsidized by their parent institutions, are part of the mix.

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