Book Discovery Survey

A recently published survey titled Book Discovery looked at how readers discover books and ebooks.

There were 1,289 respondents to the survey questionnaire. There were few surprises in the results.

The top findings:

  1. There was no clear format preference between ebooks and print, although younger readers leaned towards digital reading more than older readers (not surprising).
  2. Regardless of whether reader preference was ebooks, print, or both, Amazon was the clear leader in book procurement in 2013 (also no great surprise).
  3. The four most common book/author discovery methods were Author Loyalty (meaning authors whom the readers actively follow), recommendations from friends, Amazon Recommendations, and free or discounted books. (Interesting only for Amazon’s placement.)
  4. Those who downloaded free ebooks in 2013 downloaded more than 15 and completed more than 50% of them (the survey creator did not expect this result. )
  5. Books were recommended in 8 primary ways (many times in more than one way by the same reader) – with face to face the number one recommendation method by far (actual word of mouth is still very important)
  6. How an author published (self-publishing, indie, small press, big 5) is the least influential factor in future book purchasing.

The survey found that those who have switched to preferring ebooks have lost their preference for print much more so than those readers who have a preference for print. This signifies that convincing readers to try out electronic reading could be a real boon for moving volume – and puts a feather in the cap of subscription reading services.

I would recommend authors use subscription services as a way to introduce readers to their works, then maximize future earnings by placing only a few works on subscription services while publishing remaining works through various retail outlets – if doing so makes economic sense to an author. Some authors may have a significant volume of sales using subscription services and decide to distribute all their works using subscription services and retail outlets. Each author will have to decide how best to maximize sales.

The survey also found a lack of trust associated with social media recommendations – in other words, don’t wrap your entire marketing strategy around Twitter and Facebook! This is one of those ‘Duh’ recommendations, as were results 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 above. Such information is useful to new authors but of little use to authors who distribute through Smashwords and/or are an established author. Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, has been say the same things for years as have several other commentators, authors, and members of book or ebook forums.

Even the Amazon Recommendations ranking so high for book discovery is not really surprising as Amazon has about 50% of the US ebook reader market.

The survey results, while interesting to read, only supports what most authors know to be the best methods for book discovery; word of mouth and craft a great book/ebook in the first place.