How Readers Discover and Procure Books

The last few weeks, I’ve been slowly working my way through the Pew Research Center report Younger Americans’ Reading and Library Habits (which is sad because it’s a short report).  The report has a chapter dedicated to how people discover and where they get their books (Chapter 2, for those interested).  While most of the findings weren’t too surprising, a few things jumped out at me.

• I didn’t find it surprising that both younger (<30 years old) and older (>30 years old) readers depended most on family, friends, and co-workers for book recommendations. Over 64% of all readers found their books this way.  What did surprise me was that younger readers were less likely to get recommendations from online book stores than older readers.  I always think of the under-30 crowd as having gone “all-in” on the internet, yet even senior citizens got more recommendations from online book stores than readers under 30.

• Most people preferred to buy (as opposed to borrow) print and ebooks, but tended to be more selective when buying printed books.  Survey respondents tended to view print books as investments, and “chosen in order to re-read, share with others, or pass on to one’s children.”  Ebooks weren’t viewed the same.

• Most people who listened to audio books preferred to borrow them rather than buy them.  This surprised me a little, but then when I thought about it, the only person I know who buys audiobooks is my wife.  Everyone else I know who listens to audiobooks checks them out of the library.

So as a writer, the take home message seems be that the best advertising is word of mouth (which is not surprising).  Also, selling ebooks is likely to be easier than selling paper books because ebook buyers appear to be less selective about the books they buy.  This last finding is consistent with the rise in ebook sales in 2012.  As someone who is considering self-publishing, these findings are encouraging.

About D. Thomas Minton

Writer of speculative fiction
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10 Responses to How Readers Discover and Procure Books

  1. katkasia says:

    Interesting. Thanks for sharing that. I suppose the trick is to try and get enough buzz and enough books out there that you have some chance of starting a trend by word-of-mouth. Not easy!

    • Several fellow writers I know who self-publish talk about getting enough stock out there. It seems the more you have available, the better your sales. I’m guessing this helps in two ways: (1) readers have a better chance of “stumbling” across your work, and (2) readers who want to read more of your work, can. Both of these can increase word-of-mouth sales.

      The other thing they talk about: Amazon reader reviews, and it doesn’t seem to matter if they are good or bad, just so long they are not all of one or the other and there are a lot of them.

      • katkasia says:

        Yes, I get that impression. It is surprisingly tricky to get Amazon reviews though sometimes! I’ve had a number of people let me know personally how much they enjoyed the book, but they are shy of posting on Amazon for one reason or another. I’ve also had a review mysteriously disappear – and from the discussion boards on Amazon this seems a common occurance, although no-one seems to be able to figure out quite where or why they go.

      • Just disappeared? Getting those reviews is hard enough, I hadn’t heard that they sometimes just disappear. I can understand people’s reluctance to write reviews. I’ve never been a review writer myself, but I also never fully understood their value until recently. While I don’t read many novels these days (and when I do they tend to be from established authors), I would be more inclined to write a quick review.

  2. Thanks for the great post. I think your observation about releasing a number of works is astute. I have several pieces in the pipeline, but only one title actually out there and it is effectively invisible.

    So far I have only worked on making Apple iBooks. Have any of you done this AND another route with the same book? I’d love to hear how they compare.

    Best to all

    • I’ve not self-published any of my work at this time (I’ve been going the more traditional route), but I know several writers who have. Most writers I know publish on multiple platforms, and often both digital and paper. Nothing against Apple, but if you’re missing Amazon, then you’re missing a huge market. Most of the advice I’ve received has been to start at Amazon, and expand out from there, but there’s probably no right answer at this point.

  3. Tammy J Rizzo says:

    Reblogged this on Tammy J Rizzo and commented:
    Here are some very encouraging thoughts regarding where people get their book recommendations. Apparently, word-of-mouth is still the way to go. That means we need to build up our platforms, connect with our readers, and be accessible and real, so they’ll want to buy our books.

  4. Pingback: Ebooks Changing the Way We Use Libraries | D. Thomas Minton

  5. Pingback: Amazon: Only the End of the Funnel? | D. Thomas Minton

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