Goodreads Blog

What's Going On with Readers Today? Goodreads Finds Out

Posted by Otis Chandler on February 25, 2013
What makes someone decide to read a particular book? Do people read on their cell phones? Is there really a "walled garden" or do people shop around for e-books? And how many readers actually want books in serial format?

These are all questions we tackled in our presentation at February's publishing industry conference, Tools of Change. This year, we decided to do something a little different. We asked publishers what topics interested them, and then we surveyed the experts—the Goodreads community. The results were fascinating.

Book Discovery

"Discovery" is a huge topic in the publishing industry, especially as more and more books are published each year. For this presentation, we took a different tack. Rather than just ask a general "How do you discover books?" question, we went to recent readers of two popular books on Goodreads and asked: "What convinced you to read this book?"

The two choices were Gone Girl (which was the most reviewed book on Goodreads in 2012 and the winner of the Mystery & Thriller category in the 2012 Goodreads Choice Awards) and The Night Circus (a debut novel from 2011, which was a finalist in the 2011 Goodreads Choice Awards).



A recommendation from a trusted friend was the clear winner for both books. This reinforces other industry studies and also underlines something we've long believed: Books are one of the strongest social objects that exist.

From our earliest days, humans have always connected over stories. We see remnants of those tales in cave paintings dating back 40,000 years. The power of a story—and the desire to share and talk about that story—lives on today, even in a world turned increasingly digital. In fact, if you look at the graphic above, several of the top answers (Everyone Talking About It, Book Club, On "Best" Lists) all go back to one powerful need: wanting to be connected with our "tribe" through stories.

E-Books Escape from the E-Ink Reader

With 75% of our members reading books in e-book format at least some of the time (see slide 19 "Which format do you prefer to read in?"), publishers are interested in which devices people use to read. There have been industry reports, for example, that tablets are outselling dedicated e-readers. Publishers want to see how this impacts the choice of devices for e-book reading.

  • 37% of our survey respondents read e-books on their cell phones. Of these,
    • 72% read e-books on their cell phones while commuting or waiting in line
    • 13% say that their cell phone is the only device they use to read e-books
    • A surprising, but still small, number of people noted in the "Other" response option that they use their cell phone as a backup device. For example, one member wrote that she uses her cell phone to read e-books "when my child has my Kindle." We think if we'd given this as an option that we would have seen a high enough percentage to have included "use as backup e-book reading device" in the top responses.
  • 86% of survey respondents who own a tablet read e-books on the device. Of these,
    • 74% use their tablets to read around the home
    • 68% read e-books with their tablets in bed
    • Almost a third (32%) say that the tablet is the only device they use to read e-books


E-Book Readers Take Down That Wall

We also took a look at how locked in people are to their e-reader devices. Surprisingly, we found that almost three quarters (73%) of e-book readers shop around for the best price at least sometimes. And 20% always shop around for the best price.

That then opened up the question: Were some e-book readers more likely to shop around than others?



A surprising 18% of Kindle readers also read on Apple iBooks, and 15% also read in the Nook format.

Nook and Apple iBook readers appear to be less locked in to their formats than Kindle readers.

It's important to note that we didn't ask respondents what their primary format was, so this data should only be taken as an indication of the level of experimentation that's taking place. But it does open up some interesting questions. In particular, as tablets increasingly become the e-book reader device of choice for more and more people, does this also mean that they are reading across different e-reader apps? A question for a future survey, perhaps.

Please, Sir, I Want Some More

Everybody's favorite example of an author who had success publishing his books in a serial format is Charles Dickens (author of, among other classics, Oliver Twist). With the rise in e-books, there has been an increasing rise in people experimenting with the serialization of books.

We asked Goodreads members whether they would be interested in reading a book in serial format instead of waiting six months for a complete book. We also asked them to rate their interest for both an author they knew and liked and an author they did not know.



The contrast in responses was clear. For an author that they knew and liked, almost half (49%) said they would be interested in this concept. However, for an unknown author looking to use this technique to gain readers, the data is not as encouraging. Only 17% said they would be interested and more than half (55%) said they are not at all interested. That's not to say that you shouldn't experiment with this option if you are an author looking to grow a fan base. After all, a certain successful book with the word "fifty" in its title originally started as a serial. Just be aware that the barriers for unknown authors are higher than you might realize.

For even more nitty-gritty from the world of readers, please take a look at our complete presentation:




Comments (showing 1-47 of 47) (47 new)

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message 1: by Maria (last edited Feb 26, 2013 07:29AM) (new)

Maria Schneider Thanks. Some great information in here and some intriguing survey questions!

I haven't read either book. I vaguely remember seeing/hearing about one of them. I can't decide if I need to get out more--or less!


message 2: by Marie-Claire (new)

Marie-Claire I have read both book based mostly on goodreads recommendation. I am an avid ereader and rely heavily on goodreads recommendations before I purchase a book.


message 3: by Frank (new)

Frank 75% of readers read books on e-readers ? I question that. Maybe 75% do some reading on e-readers. I read 95% of my news and magazines on my iPad but not books,i have tried but for some reason never was able to finish any book I started. When im flying I would say a majority of people were reading real-books. I understand why publishers would push e-books. I read allot and borrow most of my books from friends or the library. E-books cost as much as real-books and you can't share them, sharing books is one of the joys of friendship.


message 4: by Suzanne, VP—Communications (new)

Suzanne Frank, your theory is correct. 75% read e-books at least some of the time but only 9% read e-books only. People are mixing things up - 45% read a mix of print and e-books while 21% use a mixture of print, audiobooks and e-books.


message 5: by Frank (new)

Frank Thanks Suzanne , that makes more sense.


message 6: by Nicholas (new)

Nicholas Forristal Much of what is being said here, I have seen before or have discovered myself. When I started writing my current series, I tried the monthly serial approach and quickly figure out how ineffective that is.

I've found, for me, that publishing a book every 3 to 4 months has worked far better. The books come at a good size and it keeps my name fresh, plus I always hated waiting a year for an author to put something new out.


message 7: by Bradford (new)

Bradford As a Kindle reader, I usually buy from Amazon because it's convenient. As well, if Amazon doesn't have the e-book, it's unlikely that B&N or Apple do. I would guess that fewer Kindle readers are cross-platform readers simply because Amazon's digital media ecosystem is so complete.


message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

Would a publisher's sales rep count as a trusted friend? In the case of both The Night Circus and Gone Girl, a Random House rep literally put a copy in my hand and said, "Trust me."


message 9: by Alissa (new)

Alissa Chandler Nothing but Kindle here!!! Unless the only available format is print... but I usually skip until it comes out on the kindle.


message 10: by Patricia (new)

Patricia Bradford wrote: "As a Kindle reader, I usually buy from Amazon because it's convenient. As well, if Amazon doesn't have the e-book, it's unlikely that B&N or Apple do. I would guess that fewer Kindle readers are cr..."

I would have to agree with you as I have had the same experience. I also know of three people who are with Apple and are switching to Kindle.


message 11: by Jassanja (new)

Jassanja As for serials:

Many authors seem to use serials to charge three or four time the prize of a full book. In that case I'm not interested, no matter if I like/know the author or not.


message 12: by George (new)

George I only read on my kindle unless that format isn't available then I get it from the library. I will never buy another physical book and I am actually replacing the physical ones I own with digital and donating the originals to goodwill.


message 13: by Carol (new)

Carol I have a Kindle app. Nook app iBook app etc and Overdrive app for my iPhone. I read all eBooks on my iPhone


message 14: by Steve (last edited Feb 26, 2013 12:16PM) (new)

Steve The one data point that interested me was where people get their ebooks from. I read all my books on a tablet (Motorola Xoom), and have both the Nook and Kindle apps installed. I can't stand the Kindle app (hate?), so I read everything with the Nook app, even the Kindle books I've purchased. It has taken a lot of research and work, but I've figured out how to side-load mobi/azw books into the Nook app so I can read them there.


message 15: by Lynne (new)

Lynne I still prefer real books!


message 16: by Angie (new)

Angie Frank wrote: "75% of readers read books on e-readers ? I question that. Maybe 75% do some reading on e-readers. I read 95% of my news and magazines on my iPad but not books,i have tried but for some reason nev..."

That is what the study says, "75% of our members reading books in e-book format at least some of the time." Meaning, at least some of the time, 75% of goodreads members use an e-reader, not all the time.


message 17: by Frank (new)

Frank Thanks Angie, Suzanne cleared it up in an earlier post.


message 18: by Suzy (new)

Suzy I would be interested in how many people get e-books from the library. My local library has titles in "e", audio and of course print. I am a slow reader, so I don't read e-books. Instead, I listen. I get about 80% of my audio books from the library and 20% from Audible (an Amazon company). About 20% of my reading is in print (on Paper) which I mainly buy but sometimes get from the library. Not completely relevant to this current survey, but I'd be interested in knowing more about how many people consume books audibly, what kind of device/format they use and where they get the books.


message 19: by Frank (new)

Frank Suzy, if you have kindle or smartphone or an iPad, download audiobooks app you can listen to any classic literature for free. It will download the books to your device using wifi or 3G . You don't need to be connected for playback. I plug my phone into my truck radio and listen on long rides. It's a awesome app.


message 20: by Maria (new)

Maria Schneider Suzy wrote: "I would be interested in how many people get e-books from the library. My local library has titles in "e", audio and of course print. I am a slow reader, so I don't read e-books. Instead, I listen..."

I get ebooks from the library every chance possible, but there just aren't enough titles. All the new ones are not made available to libraries. I still read on paper or ebook, whichever is cheaper/handy at the moment.

I listen to audio very rarely and when I do, I almost always get it from the library. I really don't care for audio books.


message 21: by Suzanne, VP—Communications (new)

Suzanne Suzy wrote: "I would be interested in how many people get e-books from the library. My local library has titles in "e", audio and of course print. I am a slow reader, so I don't read e-books. Instead, I listen..."

The survey found that 30% of people who borrowed Gone Girl and The Night Circus from the library got them in e-book format. (There's a tiny note on slide 16.) Keep in mind, though, that this is based on a survey of readers of just two books, but it gives an indication.

You have fellow audiobook lovers on Goodreads too. In a presentation to the Audio Publishers Association last year, we shared that 24% of Goodreads members had listened to 1 - 3 audiobooks in the past 12 months and 17% had listened to 4+ audiobooks in the past 12 months.


message 22: by Suzy (new)

Suzy Suzanne wrote: "Suzy wrote: "I would be interested in how many people get e-books from the library. My local library has titles in "e", audio and of course print. I am a slow reader, so I don't read e-books. Inst..."

Thanks for the info on fellow audiobook lovers and the library information for GG and TNC. (I listened to both of these and thought the production really enhanced both books.)


message 23: by Vickie (new)

Vickie Haven't read "Gone Girl" yet, but I LOVED "The Night Circus". I think I read a review in the NY Times Book Review and that's why I read it.

I read ebooks on my iPhone, but really prefer a physical book.


message 24: by Janet (new)

Janet it would be interesting to determine which people are the seed readers that feed the other readers suggestions. ie do all the people who chose it by the cover tell 10 people it is good. then the folks that decide independently give you all the crowds of people who choose by referral


message 25: by Maria (new)

Maria Schneider Janet wrote: "it would be interesting to determine which people are the seed readers that feed the other readers suggestions. ie do all the people who chose it by the cover tell 10 people it is good. then the fo..."
That would be the magic trick that every publisher wants to know...I'm sure it's different for every book, otherwise it would have been discovered a long time ago!


message 26: by Jeffrey (new)

Jeffrey So, where does social media fit in all this? I keep getting told that authors must have a Twitter following to sell books but how many of the prime market of readers buy books because of Twitter? Even Facebook? I may get hints off Facebook but I still check Goodreads first...


message 27: by George (new)

George Jeffrey wrote: "So, where does social media fit in all this? I keep getting told that authors must have a Twitter following to sell books but how many of the prime market of readers buy books because of Twitter? E..."

I followed an author on Twitter and then all these other authors followed me. Very annoying in my opinion.


message 28: by Jeffrey (new)

Jeffrey That's a hoot...says it all.


message 29: by Maria (new)

Maria Schneider George wrote: "Jeffrey wrote: "So, where does social media fit in all this? I keep getting told that authors must have a Twitter following to sell books but how many of the prime market of readers buy books becau..."
Just don't follow them back. I get followed all the time by various spammers (lawn care, product type accounts, etc.) If you don't follow back, you never see a single tweet!!!


message 30: by David (new)

David Bergsland Bradford wrote: "As a Kindle reader, I usually buy from Amazon because it's convenient. As well, if Amazon doesn't have the e-book, it's unlikely that B&N or Apple do. I would guess that fewer Kindle readers are cr..."

As an iPad reader (2-3 books a week or more), I read a lot on the Kindle, but the reading experieince is much better in iBooks, and Bluefire. Increasingly I want DRM-free books I can actually own, so Kindle is out. This is even more true with book I really care about. If I can't get DRM-free, I often buy used print.


message 31: by Maria (new)

Maria Schneider David wrote: "Bradford wrote: "As a Kindle reader, I usually buy from Amazon because it's convenient. As well, if Amazon doesn't have the e-book, it's unlikely that B&N or Apple do. I would guess that fewer Kind..."

So where do you buy?


message 32: by David (new)

David Bergsland Direct from author, websites, blogs, wherever I find them. I can't stand Nook. I buy from iBooks. I still get most of my stuff from Kindle, but I'm certainly looking for another solution. Kindle on iPad is really restricted by Amazon. Right n ow I have two books to read in Bluefire, 3 or 4 in iBooks, and a couple dozen in Kindle. I still end upwith a lot of PDFs, but PDFs from Word are really hard to read.


message 33: by Maria (new)

Maria Schneider David wrote: "Direct from author, websites, blogs, wherever I find them. I can't stand Nook. I buy from iBooks. I still get most of my stuff from Kindle, but I'm certainly looking for another solution. Kindle on..."
I hear you on the PDFs. Those are nearly unreadable (and some are unreadable). Thanks for the input.


message 34: by Cassandra (new)

Cassandra As the owner of a used paperback bookstore for 26 years and trying to stay in business, I have read the above comments with heavy heart. I know alot of my customers use the e-reader and real books we have had many conversations on both formats. I also know that many will not give up the real thing. You cannot imagine the conversations that have gone on in my store between strangers who all have one common ground- a love of books. Many after these conversation many will leave with a new author and book in their hand. I know that I have recommended many new authors to customers who come back looking for more. I could sell the Kobo, and sign up to sell their book format but the monetary value is small, and also the Kindle is not compatible with Kobo. I know that the e-readers are here to stay and hope that it will all even out. I can not imagine reading a e-reader to my grandchildren - Good Night Moon" in the small format, I think the pictures would lose their omph. I just want the readers out there to please keep the physical books forever in mind. I don't want to think that e-readers have turned some people in to book hermits who don't interact as much as they use to with people in bookstores and libraries. Nothing beats the look and feel of a book in the hand. I myself have listened to many audio books in my car. But boy when I get a book in my hands and open it, I am in heaven. Please keep the independent bookstores in mind. We are still out there and would love to talk books with you. Thank You. Cassandra Early Cypress Paperback Bookstore.


message 35: by Maria (new)

Maria Schneider Cassandra wrote: "As the owner of a used paperback bookstore for 26 years and trying to stay in business, I have read the above comments with heavy heart. I know alot of my customers use the e-reader and real books..."


Cassandra, I still read used books and I still go to the library even though I have an e-reader.

Give the Kobo sales/reader a try. I think someday the books on Kobo and Kindle will be compatible and make your job as a retailer easier. And I think it could really add to your store--impulse buys and another conversation piece. Not everyone will want a reader, but I do think that part of business will grow.

I hope we continue to have both formats because it really is about the love of reading--the stories, not the format!!!


message 36: by Martyn (new)

Martyn Lenthall I today created my list of "Top 10 Fiction Books This Century". See the full list... http://topinfotune.com/top-10-fiction...


message 37: by Natasha (new)

Natasha I love books I do use Googleplay to read samples before I buy I love the feel of the book nothing could replace that for me my husband has tried to get me to start buying the e reader cuz he tried of building book abrogate but he understands that its something I love about the whole book not just the.story


message 38: by Madison (new)

Madison 75% read on ereaders is not the same as ONLY reading on ereaders. I imagine that a lot of that 75% also read real books. Ereaders just don't have that wonderful page smell :)


message 39: by Kelp4less (new)

Kelp4less Still cannot make the transition to an ereader. Stuck with a good traditional book

http://www.kelp4less.com

The Kelp4less Team


message 40: by Alex (new)

Alex I don't think I could write in a serial fashion. To get the quality I want, I have to revise many, many times, both as I go along and after the draft is finished. The story changes as I go and I may need to return to an earlier chapter or two and revise it so things fit. That said, eBooks are much more successful for me than print. I still prefer print books, but use a Kindle Fire for many books. Plus there is a benefit to the instant gratification for obtaining abook.Alex Lukeman


message 41: by Jan (new)

Jan Hurst-Nicholson Cassandra wrote: "As the owner of a used paperback bookstore for 26 years and trying to stay in business, I have read the above comments with heavy heart. I know alot of my customers use the e-reader and real books..."

Sadly, gone are the days when the assistants working in the bookshops knew all their customers and their reading preferences. They would put aside a new release for you and would be knowledgeable about the content.


message 42: by Marlayna (new)

Marlayna Brown As a memoirist, all of my books can be considered serials. They are each complete on their own but much more enjoyable if you enjoy the whole story. I had one reader complain that she felt pressured to buy the next book, which really surprised me. I include a chapter blurb and a link at the end of each book. That doesn't seem like pressure to me!


message 43: by S.W. (new)

S.W. Hubbard Frank wrote: "75% of readers read books on e-readers ? I question that. Maybe 75% do some reading on e-readers. I read 95% of my news and magazines on my iPad but not books,i have tried but for some reason nev..."

Just so you know, you CAN share an ebook with a friend, depending on the publisher and you CAN borrow ebooks from your library (unless your library is in the stone age). Bestselling new releases from the Big 6 publishers can be expensive in ebook format, but there are lots of ebook bargains out there--older, back-list books from established authors as well as quality books from indie authors. Give ebook reading a chance--you can read in both paper and e formats!


message 44: by Carol (new)

Carol S.W. wrote: "Frank wrote: "75% of readers read books on e-readers ? I question that. Maybe 75% do some reading on e-readers. I read 95% of my news and magazines on my iPad but not books,i have tried but for s..."
Ijust downloaded 'Agent of Change' by Lee & Miller for FREE!


message 45: by Dodo (new)

Dodo Lynne wrote: "I still prefer real books!"
Agree!
I do prefer real books except perhaps for those you just read once and forget. If I can only get an e-book, I scan and print and make myself a paper copy. Hardback.
:)


message 46: by Dana (new)

Dana I have a book or two on my phone for the gym or in case I'm stranded somewhere, but I'll never quit physical books. I love the feel of them, the smell, and every bit of their design from the covers to the font. Physical books are really the only objects I collect. I hate the idea of information about what/how I'm reading being gathered by companies through an e-reader, ugh. Plus, you can't chuck a Kindle at the wall if the book is terrible!

Ha, I don't even like to watch TV shows in serial form anymore (being able to binge with Netflix is great!). No interest in serial novels. As a writer, I can't imagine having to write in that format. In my opinion, it didn't work out too well for Dickens!


message 47: by Dora (new)

Dora M. Thank you for sharing the information
My reading habits


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