I read an interesting article yesterday by Laura Hazard Owen claiming that although more people are buying their books online, there is a disconnect between where they are making their purchases and how they are discovering their books in the first place. She claims that even the popular sites like Pinterest and Goodreads do not show much fruit that leads to actual book purchases. Here is an excerpt from the article:
Sixty-one percent of book purchases by frequent book buyers take place online, but only seven percent of those buyers said they discovered that book online, while physical book stores account for 39 percent of units sold and 20 percent of discovery share: the stats come by way of new research from Peter Hildick-Smith, the founder and CEO of the Codex Group, which tracks frequent readers’ book-buying behavior. At the Digital Book World conference in New York on Thursday, he said that discovery and availability are being “decoupled” online. In other words, readers are likely to go online to buy a book after having learned about it elsewhere.
Book discovery seems to be a prevalent issue now with the decline of physical book stores. Owen gives three suggestions for publishers, the last one seeming to be the best. She says we need more online reviewers. I couldn’t agree more about that. I rely pretty heavily on online reviews to help me with new book discovery. After a while, you develop a certain level of trust in discernment with some of the bloggers that you read. It is wonderful to hear their take on books you haven’t read. Readers need to rely on other readers. And this is why I think that bloggers who do book reviews are a new kind of librarian.
In fact, I think anyone who enjoys reading should take up their amateur librarian responsibilities. You don’t even need a blog. More and more authors have been asking me to post my reviews on Amazon because it has become a crucial piece to book marketing and discoverability. So I have been trying to take the time and copy and paste my reviews over there after I post them here (and would have participated sooner if it weren’t for the crummy star-rating system). Why not take the time to take this step when you are done reading a book? It is helpful to both the author and potential readers.
It also helps you. Writing a review sharpens your reading experience. It helps you to organize your thoughts about what you may have learned and the conversation that you were having with the author, as well as exercise your discernment skills and memory.
But these reviews are mainly helpful for already committed readers. I have a passion to bring more into this category, especially for good books on theology, history, and Christian growth. I have plenty of friends who are not readers. It bothers me because they are good thinkers. There are plenty in my church who add to the discussions in small group and Sunday school, but admit that they hardly ever read a book. How do we reach these people? I have found it beneficial to briefly verbalize reviews of good books. This also takes being a good listener. When someone comments on a theological subject with a question, I want to also provide a book for them to spend some time with in deeper thought. It’s also good to have that book available for them to put in their hands.
My friend Shari has picked up on this and made a clever play of words from the iPhone commercial. She says my motto is, “There’s a book for that.” Perhaps I’ve taken it too far. I don’t ever want to replace good conversation with throwing a book advertisement out, but I do want to discuss good books with other readers. I’ve also written about my book club idea for discovering new books that you can read about here.
What do you think? How has the internet changed the way that you find books? How might we be able to be more intentional about drawing in more readers with the market changing the way it is? Should we start having book commercials? What do you think about becoming a new kind of librarian? How can we help connect people we know to good books?