What's Going On with Readers Today? Goodreads Finds OutPosted by Otis Chandler on February 25, 2013
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.
"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:
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