How people chose what ebook to read – Part 1

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The availability of online bookstores, and particularly the arrival of eBooks is starting to transform how  people discover the books they may want to read. The traditional place to do that was bookstores. You’d go in to buy one book and discover another.

Officials at Amazon and other book websites argue that clicking can replace browsing, but is that just a vague and nebulous hope, or are people actually selecting the books they’ll read in different ways? A recent poll  conducted for USAToday and Bookish, a website designed to help people find and buy books, asked readers what factors create interest in a particular book for them.

The poll sampled 1000 adults nationwide in August 15-18 with additional polling to get 819 ereader and tablet owners in August 22-25 (sorry people, I worked for the Australian Bureau of Statistics for over a decade – this type of information is important.)

A poll found that 40% of adults — including 46% of those ages 18 to 39 — own an e-reader or a tablet. That’s more than double the numbers less than two years ago. The poll also found that 35% of those with reading devices say they’re reading more books since they got their reading devices, which seems to accord with other reports I’ve been seeing on the web. Interestingly, in answer to a question for those reading more because of their devices, what kinds of books are they reading more of (readers could list up to three genres) Nearly one in four — 23% — mentioned science fiction or fantasy, followed by mystery and crime (16%), romance (14%) and non-fiction (14%).

The poll also asked readers what factors create interest in a particular book for them and got the following responses:

  • 57% – their own opinion of the writer’s previous work;
  • 43% – opinions of a relative and friend (ie “word of mouth”);
  • 17% – professional reviewers and other writers;
  • 16% – the book cover; and
  • 10% – internet opinions by non-professionals (10%).

So nothing really new here. For first time authors it still remains incredibly difficult to attract the attention of the reading audience. Covers do help, but I suspect it is more that a bad cover will actually hinder sales. So it appears that new authors need to persevere, gradually building an audience with each new release of their work. The good news is that the arrival of the eBook has made this easier as books can stay ‘in print’ for ever, so each new reader for a new book means one new potential reader for books that in the old model would no longer be available..

Next week I’ll share with you the results of another recent survey which  is confirms many of the USA today survey’s results.