Goodreads’ CEO on Winning the Battle of Book Discovery

This article, by Otis Chandler, founder and CEO of Goodreads, originally appeared on Publishing Perspectives on 3/12/12.

After analyzing 5,750,000 books on Goodreads, Otis Chandler shares his insights on the evolving nature of book discovery. The short version: once isn’t enough.

“In many ways it is the struggle to get your books seen, heard about, talked about – in short, made visible in an increasingly crowded and noisy marketplace – that is where the real battle in publishing is taking place today.”  — Merchants of Culture, John B Thompson

John B. Thompson sums up the challenge facing publishers and authors today: abundance has irrevocably changed the publishing industry, and it has made discovery the central problem facing the book business.

At Goodreads, our passion and mission is helping readers discover and share books they love. In our work with publishers and authors, we see several book discovery trends developing. Some of these trends I shared in a speech at Tools of Change in New York last month. We analyzed a staggering 5,750,000 books that Goodreads members discovered (added to their to-read shelf) in January 2012, and broke them down by how the members found them. The readers adding those books lived in hundreds of different countries (though the US is our largest market), and represent both avid bookworms and casual readers.

Understandably, the findings only talk about book discovery on Goodreads but, with the world’s largest community of readers (more than seven million members), much of what we’ve found is relevant to book discovery overall.

Word of Mouth Gains New Power Online

We’ve all known for a while that the most valuable commodity for the sustained promotion of a book is word-of-mouth buzz. Goodreads was founded on the belief that a recommendation from a friend is the best way to find a book, more powerful than a glowing review in the New York Times or a mention on a TV show. There’s something about that trusted friend handing you the book and saying, “You must read this!”

And it has worked. According to a recent survey of Goodreads members, 79% of them report discovering books from friends offline, and 64% find books from their Goodreads friends.

Interestingly, the power of a friend’s recommendation has grown. Today, the recommendation doesn’t even have to be explicit, it can be as simple as seeing a friend reading a book. When you see what a friend is reading – whether on Goodreads, through an update on our Facebook Timeline app, or in person – it automatically triggers your interest.  It becomes a new form of a recommendation, social validation.

It’s All About the Pre-Launch Buzz

Read the rest of the post on Publishing Perspectives.

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