• Why do people buy books?

    Some interesting new research coming out about the changes in the High Street vis-a-vis their online competitors. It’s summarised with links to other pages here and here. It’s well worth reading. What the research is showing is that the online reading sites like Goodreads and others aren’t very effective at generating book sales. They are nowhere near as effective as a visit to a bookshop. So what that means is that at the moment, people prefer to browse in a bookshop, then more than likely go home and buy the book on Amazon. If they haven’t got a bookshop to browse in first, they may not go to Amazon and buy a book, even if they spend time browsing Amazon (which isn’t very good at encouraging browsing) or talking about books on Goodreads and others. What all this research indicates is that in the new environment, all of us involved in the game need to have a greater understanding of the triggers which encourage people to buy. When I was running my last publishing company in London, the prime mover in all this was “approved recommendations”, which basically meant a Richard & Judy nomination, an Orange or Booker Prize shortlisting, that kind of thing: many readers would wait to be prompted by advisers they felt they trusted before they would go to purchase. All slightly depressing of course, but that’s how the world works. The next mover in the process was book design: research commissioned by Faber demonstrated that there was a physical dance which would lead to purchase: look at the cover; if that intrigued, turn it over and glance at the blurb on the back; if that intrigued, open the book and read the first para; if that intrigued, go back to the blurb and read it properly and look around the jacket for endorsement prompts (Richard & Judy etc); decide to purchase (which might mean put it down and go home and buy on Amazon). If that whole process gets taken out of the equation as high street shops disappear, then we face an entirely different purchase procedure. All very interesting and stimulating.