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Is Online Book Discovery Broken? Here’s How to Fix It

In News Blog by Dennis Abrams

By Dennis Abrams

Laura Hazard Owen of paidContent sums up the problem with book discovery like this: “Right now, it doesn’t really work. New research shows that frequent book buyers visit sites like Pinterest and Goodreads regularly, but those visits fail to drive actual book purchases.”

According to Owen, 61% of book purchases by frequent buyers occur online, but only 7% of those buyers said that they had discovered that book online. To compare, brick and mortar bookstores account for 39% of books sold with a 20% discovery share. (Those stats come from Peter Hildick-Smith, founder and CEO of the Codex Group.)

At this week’s DBW, Hildick-Smith made the argument that discoverability and availability are being “decoupled” online — readers are going online to purchase books, but only after finding out about them somewhere else.

And that increasing shift to online purchasing, Owen argues, “means that readers who would once have discovered a new author by browsing in a physical bookstore might never encounter that author now. (The shift to online buying presents particular difficulties for nonfiction: Twice as many works of nonfiction are sold in physical stores as online.)”

What can be done?

Owen listed several ideas presented at Digital Book World:

Publishers should do more to protect physical bookstores.
New players in book retail.
Amp up the reader reviews.

Read the original article for further elaboration.

About the Author

Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams is a contributing editor for Publishing Perspectives, responsible for children's publishing and media. He's also the author of more than 30 YA biographies and histories for Chelsea House publishers, a restaurant critic, and a literary blogger.