Earlier this year Jellybooks, a digital book testing and data tracking firm, shared reading analytics they had captured while tracking readers.
I think the reading analytics get interesting when they turn their attention to completion rates. My favorite three points worth sharing and discussing:
- less than half of the books started were ever finished
- women seem more willing to give a book chance, quitting after 50-100 pages while men often bail after reading only 30-50 pages
- business books have really low completion rates
The NY Times has an expanded article on the report if you want to see charts, graphs and more details.
I have to admit that I am very pleased that folks are not afraid to put a bad book down. That used to not be the case. But there are so many good books out there, ‘life is too short’ and all that jazz.
As interesting as the reading analytics are things get really interesting when you start thinking how publishers will use this. Or even authors. That’s the scary part. How would the great books of the past have been shaped had the authors known when readers “get bored” or start to skip parts? Can you imagine how formulaic plots would have become? It’s bad enough as it is.
So the numbers are fun as it’s always interesting to see how people behave, but when it comes to creating art and novels that tell the stories of people, I hope authors will pause before peeking at the numbers.
Barnes & Noble released some details recently showing that revenues are down almost 5% and so on. The overall decline in sales and profits has been the lede of this news so far.
But one point that jumps out at me is worth mentioning (and lamenting). And that is the fact that Barnes & Noble bookstores are carrying fewer and fewer books every year.
Publishing industry thinker-doer-sage Thad McIlory surfaced the following nugget over on his site:
“In its latest report the company states that “each Barnes & Noble store features an authoritative selection of books, ranging from 22,000 to 164,000 titles.” The number ranged from “60,000 to 200,000 titles” in 2004. The long tail at Barnes & Noble is now 18% shorter.”
I feel frustrated every time I walk into a Barnes & Noble these days and have to navigate around the monolithic Nook base up front and then travel around all of the board games, toy figures and bobble-head dolls to get to… the fiction section. It’s that way in both the B&N shops here in town.
Lots of people go to stores with a specific title in mind to buy, but how many bump into books while there? How many folks browse and stumble into a good book and buy it? This happens. I know this happens. It happens to me. But when you keep fewer and fewer books on the shelves it is going to happen less and less.
I can only assume that on some spreadsheet somewhere it shows that the margin on toy figures is better than books. Which I’m sure it is. So the owner of that spreadsheet decrees that in the interest of chasing profits (which they do indeed need to do as B&N is hurting) they swap out books for non-book merchandise. Which probably gooses the bottom line a little.
But over time bookish folks don’t get all that excited about visiting a B&N anymore. Another two seasons like the past two and it’s going to look like the toy and magazine/book racks at Target or Wal-Mart. So folks start directing book buying elsewhere and it starts to feel like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I know the book industry is crazy right now and margins on books have always been razor-thin, but the more Barnes & Noble goes down this path it really feels like it’s doing more damage than good.
Am I off in my thinking? Anyone else see it differently?
Last week Book Expo America 2015 was held in New York City. It’s an industry-only event best described as if a giant bookstore and Mardi Gras had a baby. Is that too weird?
This year (as last) BEA backed up into BookCon. Which is an event for book fanatics, fans and the general public. It’s more as if a giant bookstore and a Hollywood red carpet had a child. If you like celebrity sightings then it’s certainly your cup of tea.
I didn’t get to go this year (all these photos are courtesy via BEA), but had a blast watching via the bookterwebs. If you know where to look you don’t have to dig too far before you virtually bump into an author or publisher you admire.
So while there are no free books or ARC’s here , here is a quick rundown of the more notable highlights that are worth a read-through if you’d like to catch up:
Let me know if you know of something I missed out on. I have so many links and articles to read through as I dig deeper into some really great reads coming out later this year. Maybe I can get through them all before BEA descends on Chicago in 2016.
The digital publishing world is one of the most schizophrenic marketplaces. Now, let me qualify that by saying: I work for a publisher. I help make print and digital books. I know the challenges and the limitations. That being said….
I just bought an iBooks ebook thinking: “I can read this immediately and on any of my devices, because Mavericks put iBooks right on my desktop. I’m living in the future!” But what was the first thing that greeted me upon opening my new eBook…
Ugh! Are you serious!? My suped-up laptop can’t do whatever it is this book was designed to do? This stinks. Ebooks have now grown into such a multi-headed enhanced hydra that they can no longer consistently deliver on what is one of the biggest perks of an eBook… instant access on multiple devices.
But too be honest all of my frustration (and this blog post) could have been avoided if the publisher had simply stated something along the lines of “best for iOS-only reading” in the product description or marketing copy or email promotion… anywhere.
So publishers… please… please… PLEASE… use your own books and see where your frustration lies. Chances are your “ugh!” will be the same one your readers will utter. So think of them and work harder on the book or take the time to be up front with your readers. They will all appreciate you more for it.