Thursday, June 7, 2012

Social reading, discoverability and other unsolved problems at BEA 2012. From @paidcontent

Social reading and discoverability are not the same thing, but they have something in common: They’re the things everyone is talking about at BookExpo America this week but nobody has solved.

Start off by assuming that social reading means being able to interact with a book through social media or with social features inside the book, and discoverability is the challenge of finding new authors and books.

Part of the challenge comes from the fact that many of the parties trying to come up with solutions are startups or retailers rather than the publishers themselves. Tony O’Donoghue, UX (user experience) lead of mobile applications at Kobo, noted in a social reading panel that “at the moment it’s retailers like us” adding additional features into e-books, but “eventually publishers could add them directly to their EPUBs. I do see us moving toward the publisher having control over this type of engagement in the book.”

O’Donoghue also claims that readers are going to want e-books “to be like the rest of the web that they use every day, with Google integration, Wikipedia, all the social networks.” But those may actually be things that Kobo wants readers to want.

Social tools haven’t taken the place of brick-and-mortar bookstores, which are declining as a source of discoverability for books, industry consultant and analyst Peter Hildick-Smith noted in a Publishers Launch BEA panel on Monday. His company, Codex Group, tracks discoverability by asking readers where they bought the last book they read. Two years ago, 31 percent of respondents found the book in a bookstore. As of the end of May 2012, that number has 45 percent, down to 17 percent.

That’s bad for book sales, Hildick-Smith said, because bookstores prompt a lot of spontaneous purchases. The Codex Group asked book buyers if they had a specific book in mind to buy the last time they went to a brick-and-mortar bookstore. Only one in three had a specific title in mind; the rest were going to browse and buy. Kindle owners are even more likely to browse in bookstores — 76 percent go in spontaneously — suggesting that online solutions (like Amazon’s algorithms) aren’t yet doing the trick for discoverability.

Read on here....

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