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Forty-Four Ways to Discover Books

Post by Duncan Smith
Posted October 23, 2012 in NoveList Plus, Readers' Advisory News, Special Announcements

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Thanks to author E.L. James and singer Paul Simon we know that there are Fifty Shades of Grey and 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover. And this just in—there are 44 different ways that readers discover books.

Speaking at the Digital Book World Discoverability and Marketing conference, Kelly Gallagher, Bowker (VP for Publisher Services) indicated that the book discovery landscape is becoming more complicated as reader behavior changes. His premise was that the reader discovery landscape is no longer divided only by traditional demographics such as age, genre, or reading interests, but that new fracture lines are appearing. The formats preferred and devices used also affect how readers discover books.

Based on these findings, those of us working in libraries must keep in mind that we are not always first responders when it comes to book discovery. Each patron has a personal system and as Gallagher pointed out, it may no longer be tied to traditional market segmentation measures like demographics or genre preference. We not only need to determine how readers find books in our physical libraries, catalogs, and websites, we also need to learn more about where and how libraries fit into the book discovery landscape of our users. We need to be as creative in developing book discovery services as our readers are in developing their personal book discovery strategies.

When I was branch manager at Forsyth County Public Library (NC)'s Kernersville Branch, a regular patrons told me that she was finding all sorts of good books to read. Since she was a literary fiction reader, I knew that neither the spine labeling nor our current displays could have been helpful to her. I asked her how she was finding so many good books. Her answer? "I started at the A's and I'm going through the shelves pulling off all of the books with red covers. If one doesn't interest me, I put it back. If it does, I take it home. When I get through the Z's, I'm going to start all over again with blue covers." When I said that it seemed to be an odd way to find books, she asked me if I had a better idea. And I didn't. I think it's time that we develop that better idea, don't you?