Nathan Bransford, Author


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Way We Learn About Books is Changing


Some interesting data about the changing way in which we hear about books (via Mitchell Waters):
Two years ago, 35% of book purchases were made because readers found out about a book in bricks-and-mortar bookstores, the single-largest site of discovery. This year, that figure has dropped to 17%, a reflection both of the closing of Borders and the rise of e-readers. In the same period, personal recommendations grew the most, to 22% from 14%. Some three-quarters of personal recommendations are made in person, while the rest come by e-mail (8%), phone (7%), Facebook (4%) and other social networks (3%).
That's an incredibly fast change. Just two years ago a plurality of people were hearing about books in bookstores, now that has dropped to half that number.

Is this consistent with your experience? Are you learning about books in new ways?

Art: The Friendly Gossips by Eugene de Blaas






39 comments:

abc said...

I learn about most of my reading list through the internet. Goodreads, facebook, you, other blogs. Yay internet!

anya* said...

The way I *mostly* hear about new books is when I buy a book on Amazon and it shows what 'other customers who looked at this are buying'. I often throw it in my cart, or save for later. I buy 90% of my books through Amazon.
I used to buy the majority at Barnes & Noble. In the last few years I've become disappointed because the selection is so limited and the prices seem higher than what I can buy online with an Amazon Prime membership.

Juliana L. Brandt said...

All of the books I read are from personal recommendations- friend's blogs, twitter, facebook or in person :) I'll even check out friend's good reads lists if I know we enjoy similar books.

b helm said...

Most of the books I discover come through Goodreads - I pay attention to the titles that my friends add to their shelves and, in turn, add many of them to my own shelves. I may notice things on Amazon, but usually don't buy there.

I do feel compelled to admit that my town does not have a Barnes & Noble, which is the store I frequented most (moreso than most clothing stores, really) until we moved here. I do, however, visit the local indie book store somewhat regularly, but generally when I'm there, I'm looking for something I've seen online somewhere.

Annalisa said...

Almost all my book discoveries are on Goodreads. The only ones that aren't are book club recommends, and what's the first thing I do when I hear a title at book club? Pull up Goodreads and check out the reviews. I do love to peruse shelves in a book store, but I don't have one close by (other than the meager book sections at Target and Walmart) so I tend to buy books off Amazon or Barnes and Noble but I don't pay attention to the recommends there.

Lance C. said...

It's interesting: Facebook and "other social networks" account for a whopping 7% of discoveries. Blogs don't even show up as a separate segment. Yet the book-marketing gurus tell us to focus on blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and the rest to get the word out.

I suspect the comments posted here are from a skewed sample, since they're added by people who follow a writing blog -- a niche activity, according to these numbers.

Given this information, what are authors to do to increase discoverability for their works? What do we do about the other 93%?

Matt Borgard said...

I think this gels pretty well with what most people have been feeling intuitively. While I'll still occasionally saunter into a bookstore and pick up something that looks interesting, that happens a lot less frequently now -- mainly because I saunter into bookstores a lot less frequently.

Lance pointed out that places like Goodreads and Facebook don't account for a huge percentage of book discoveries. One way to reconcile this might be the fact that, while I don't discover a lot of books through social media, I do discover a lot of authors. For instance, I heard a lot about China Mieville, but not many people were addressing individual books. So while I knew I wanted to read him, I sort of just picked which book of his to read at random (Perdido Street Station, for anyone who cares). It'd be interesting to see the results if they asked the same question, only substituting the word "author" for "book."

Ivan Stoikov - Allan Bard said...

Yes! You are 100% right! If one uses Internet, the ways he/she finds about books are a totally different case already...WWWeb has changed our every day's life, though this could be a good thing in many occasions? As far as I am concerned, after I bought my e-reader I stopped buying paper books, though I still find a lot of info in some good book stores and news-papers and magazines...
BTW, I guess you'll like a suggestion of mine? Do you use sites like zazzle.com, cafepress. com, fiverr? They could be a good way to show your works/blog and to help "remove" stupidity in the streets like headlines on t-shirts, fridge-magnets, cups, etc: My Boyfriend kisses Better Than Yours, FBI - female body inspector, etc. Not everything we see and think of should be about sex, right? It would be much better if there were more nice pictures of mythical creatures, good thoughts, poems from fantasy genre, etc? I'm allanbard there, I use some of my illustrations, thoughts, poems from my books (like: One can fight money only with money, Even in the hottest fire there's a bit of water, The thinnest thing in the world is the border between good and evil, or
Love and happiness will be around,
as all the chains will disappear,
and Mountaineers will climb their mount
and there won't be any tear! etc). I guess such lines sound and look much better than the usual we see every day? Best wishes! Keep up the good work going! Let the wonderful noise of the sea always sounds in your ears! (a greeting of the water dragons' hunters - my Tale Of The Rock Pieces).

Samantha said...

That's crazy fast! And very interesting and I'd have to say I'm right in there. Two years ago I'd spend hours in bookstores making lists. Now I get recommendations from my friends, facebook, reviews and google.

Anonymous said...

I still find the majority of my books by browsing the racks of bookstores, libraries, and my favorite place, Half-Price Books. I can't afford Barnes and Noble. I go in there to get ideas of things to look for at HPB and libraries. I have an e-reader given to me as a gift, but I don't get many books on it except for free classics. I hope to be able to afford books for the e-reader someday, but I'm just a poor writer at the moment.

I find authors in short story magazines like Hitchcock, EQMM, and Analog.

To answer Lance C. my goal to get my name in front of readers who buy books (not just authors who read blogs) is to get short stories published in genre magazines with circulations of 50,000 or more. I think I'll reach more readers that way than I ever would with twitter.

Laura Marcella said...

I haven't jumped on the ebook bandwagon, so I still browse bookstores and libraries. Just this past weekend I bought two new books I hadn't yet heard of. I love it when that happens! Nothing can replace good 'ol paperback books. :)

I still get book recommendations from family and friends, and now blogging buddies. I really like Goodreads for discovering new books, too. But for me the best way is still in browsing the bookstore and library!

Natalie Aguirre said...

I find out about most books through following author and book review blogs. So yes, word of mouth has a huge impact on the books I choose to read and to spotlight on my blog.

Natalie said...

I find books lots of different ways. I check out what friends are reading and liking on Goodreads; book club; books that attract me while I'm tooling around Barnes & Noble; book blogs I enjoy; and YES, I hit buy on a fairly good percentage of Amazon recommendations. I've shopped Amazon for years and it turns out, it "knows" me pretty well. None of my friends have as impressive of an algorithm for my likes and infallible memory of my past reads ;-)

Lisa Shafer said...

One thing that stays consistent is how kids at school get excited about books. If a teacher or a librarian talks about how much s/he likes a certain book, more kids are likely to check out that book from the library. Our school librarian says it never fails. He can always tell when a teacher has talked to a class about a book because 7 or 8 kids will come in looking for the same book on that same day.
And, quite frankly, THAT hasn't changed at all in 20 years -- and it may never change.

Nancy Thompson said...

I pretty much only read what has been recommended to me. But I do download a lot of books from my author friends, especially when they're free or inexpensive. Most books I read are from the library and if I like it, I will buy it, usually a hard copy.

Kristin Laughtin said...

Definitely consistent. Even when I go to a physical bookstore now, it seems there is less variety of titles, which makes discovery that much harder. I definitely rely more on recommendations and mentions on the Internet to spark my interest.

adan said...

"In the same period, personal recommendations grew the most" -

there's something appealing about that!

Joanna said...

I hear about books from many sources - traditional and otherwise. But mostly I end up reading the recommendations from friends in my book club and writers' group. My 27 year old daughter gives me ideas as does my sister...I use my Kindle but there's always a "real" book by my bed and in my purse.

Doina Manea said...

I am among the lucky ones, having a bookstore right inside the campus where I work. I visit it almost every day. Sometimes I buy books through Amazon, I read reviews there but that isn't the way how I select a book. I think the day when the bookstores will disappear is a very sad day. Same for the records stores. I miss those moments when browsing the aisles with records/CDs. Very much. Not everyone in this country owns a computer - especially some elderly people who are still intellectually active and want to purchase a book or some music without having a computer handy.

Debra Feldman said...

I still mostly learn about books through word of mouth. Two new ways I am learning about books is through emails from organizations to which I subscribe (WritersDigest) and through online message boards.

Anonymous said...

no. for the most part, my reading is still review driven. I constantly talk about books with friends, but we have totally divergent tastes.

shannon said...

I also learn about books by listening to NPR interviews.

Bryan Russell said...

I'm not sure, really. I find out about books online, but a lot of my purchases are just things I stumble on in bookstores. There's nothing like wandering the ol' bookstore, particularly with a warm drink in hand.

Maya said...

Yes, it's consistent for me. Now the majority of my book recs come from Goodreads. Also, I won't buy a book without looking over the reviews.

jrlawson4@comcast.net said...

Very rarely do I take recommendations from blogs or other social sites. Mine are either recommendations from two specific people and downloading free books on Amazon for my Kindle. That way I find new authors to love :-) Oh, I also like to browse at the library when I have a chance.

Will Overby said...

These days I mostly hear about new books on various blogs that I subscribe to. Compare that to 25 years ago when I heard about them through Book of the Month Club mailings.

Doug said...

Bookstores? How quaint.

For fiction, I've been 100% e-book for 2-1/2 years. I watch what's free and pick the ones that sound interesting. If they turn out not to be so good, I drop them quickly and move on. Plenty more free fish in the e-book sea.

In two cases, I've bought other titles in a series where the first title was offered as a free e-book and really impressed me. I'm not much of a series-reader — too many free fish in that e-book sea. I've got somewhere around 500 free titles in my to-be-read list, and new ones get added faster than I remove ones that I've read or given up on.

My non-fiction purchases are paper copies of tech books that "everyone says" I need to have. I buy maybe one a year. Since these are specialty items and probably not carried at the bookstore, I buy them directly from the publisher or from that really big online bookseller.

Neurotic Workaholic said...

I miss Borders. I used to browse there all the time, and more often than not I'd pick up a book on one of their display tables and end up buying it because it looked so interesting.
One thing I like about Amazon is it makes recommendations based on the books that you browse through/buy. That helps me find new books too.

E.B. Black said...

Yes. Most books I choose to read are because someone recommended them to me. Occasionally, I'm browsing on Amazon and find a good book for my kindle that way, too, or through my friends on social media. Very rarely do I choose a book because I foun.d it in the bookstore anymore

Christine M. Monson said...

Twitter and writer blogs are where I grab most of recommendations, yet I still love walking into a bookstore and browsing the shelves until I walk out with an armful!

Mira said...

Sorry, I know I always do this, but I question the data. For one thing, I never trust an article that doesn't link to the study involved. I also see that Codex (who conducted the study) is a consulting agency for Publishers, and I NEVER trust their data. It says they conducted 250,000 interviews. Okay. They don't say who the sample was, how long the study went for, methodology, etc.

I'm not critiquing that you cited it, Nathan, it's an interesting topic, and we have to start somewhere. I just mistrust the data that's presented.

For example, I'm not sure I believe that bookstores used to be the main way people found books. I think personal recommendations used to be even more important prior to Amazon's recommendation system.

Nowadaya, I think it's not an either/or thing, reading is increasing, and readers are getting recommendations from many different places, not just one (another flaw with the study).

For me, I get recommendations all over the place - from blogs, from blog comments, from following authors I meet on blogs, from Amazon's recommendations, from browsing Amazon, from friends and colleagues.

I just read today, that they are trying to create computer algorhytms (sp?) that will recommend books. The future should be really interesting. :)

alienor33 said...

I have to say I agree with Lance C that anyone giving their opinion here is already linked up to the idea of social networking so much more likely to take advantage of Goodreads, FB etc. Three quarters of buyers still rely on word of mouth. It probably means that learning about books through internet will increase at the same ratio as buying habits change in every other area too.

Anonymous said...

This is so true for me. I used to read the NYT, Time Magazine, and I got a lot of book recommendations from BOMC...Book of the Month Club, Doubleday.

Now it's from social media, word of mouth, and almost virtually online sources.

What is even more interesting is that I've been getting an unsolicited copy of People Magazine weekly for the past ten years...and I mean unsolicited because I've never paid for it and don't want it. But it comes anyway and when I check out the book recommendations sometimes they all look so tired and old time I rarely pay attention to them.

MHPAUTHOR said...

All of the above...

I agree with the poster who respectfully questioned the survey. Whether in favor or against one method of purchasing books, a marketing survey can be easily skewed towards the results the business paying for the survey wants. Ethical or not. Personally, I never believe in surveys.

More to the point, when Borders (2 in my neck of the woods) went under, I purchased many books (incredible prices) to read over the subsequent years. Felt bad for the employees because I was laid off once in my working life, but the Borders management botched a great book store concept and I felt it was acceptable for me to purchase as they shuttered their doors by their own poor business style. Regardless of that fact, I have a back list of books to read and only buy for friends and family.

In the area I live in, there is a great dollar store where I have purchased books that other places including the big brick and mordor (ha...) stores, internet retailers and small moms and pops have at full pop. I have also found great deals on books I would never have considered at places that don't normally sell books. They had some interesting finds to offer.

Personally, I have visited hundreds of blogs trying to promote my own ebook and don't find the reviews strong enough to make me want to drop everything and go download or run to the book store two towns over. However, I am often intrigued by the covers (sci-fi, action-adventure et al) which can be easily seen and admired at all the internet retailers.

For now, I think word of mouth will be the most influential methods of promoting e or printed books. Funny, isn't that how it has been since the first scroll or rock? By the way, aren't all blogs, forums, information sites, banner ads etc... forms of word of mouth?

Beth Allen said...

My reading list is 100% from the internet--amazon, blogs, Goodreads, Facebook, and Twitter.

G. B. Miller said...

95% Internet (blogs, Facebook, other writers, my publisher) and 5% real world (library and newspapers).

Katherine Traylor said...

Yeah, I learn about most of my new reads from book blogs.

RoadWarriorMomma said...

I'm old school - LOVE B&N and visit at least once a week to browse and yes, even buy. Plus I spend tons of money at the bookstore on food, drinks and in the kids section...my kids know that books are the one thing I won't say "no" to…a lot:).

When I visit/travel to different areas, I always visit local bookstores (usually independent) and buy a book. This is my own form of political activism!

That being said, I have turned to many book blogs in the last year - love them for genre driven reading. I also like Goodreads. If an author becomes a favorite, I bookmark and visit their websites regularly.

I read reviews in entertainment magazines and often buy books based on that, usually nonfiction. Also – again for nonfiction - books promoted on talk shows always get me attention.
I also don’t own an e-reader.

Jaz said...

Great topic for discussion, Nathan!
I haven’t frequented brick & mortar bookstores for a number of years, or purchased many books from those retailers. Since buying a Kindle reader in 2009, I have exclusively purchased fiction titles in eBook format from Amazon, and I seek the majority of book recommendations from RT Book Reviews magazine, Goodreads, favorite book blogger websites, Facebook book groups/friends, and suggestions by close friends and family. Occasionally, I consider Amazon recommended titles, though I always go to Goodreads for reviews and opinions. As an author, I rely upon these same resources to garner interested readers, as well.

All the best,
Jaz
http://jazprimo.com

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