Discovery is Publishers’ Problem; Readers are Doing Just Fine

This post, by Guy LeCharles Gonzalez, originally appeared on his loudpoet site on 2/11/13.

The book publishing conference season is in full swing and “discovery” is the buzzword du jour, driven by the curious notion that, with the decline of physical bookstores, readers supposedly can’t easily find books online. There’s even new research that claims “frequent book buyers visit sites like Pinterest and Goodreads regularly, but those visits fail to drive actual book purchases.”

“We’re now seeing the transition we’ve been expecting. After five years, ebooks is a multi-billion dollar category for us and growing fast — up approximately 70 percent last year. In contrast, our physical book sales experienced the lowest December growth rate in our 17 years as a book seller, up just 5 percent.”

Jeff Bezos, via GigaOm

Unfortunately, in the spirit of “lies, damned lies, and statistics,” that research is skewed partly by its authors’ underlying agenda (“Physical retail works if you protect it.”), but more importantly, by its flawed methodology, specifically its dependence on what’s known as last-click attribution, wherein the final interaction that led to a sale is given 100% credit for the conversion, ignoring the realities of multiple touchpoints and myriad potential influencers.

The problem is that this assumes that people are waaaay less complicated than they really are. Very few people buy anything after one brand interaction. We’re comparison shoppers. We want the best deals. I don’t buy anything until I’m sure I’ve found the best item at the best price.

–”The Death of Last Click Attribution,” Kimm Lincoln

Never mind the folly of dismissing Goodreads, a social network dedicated to books with 13m+ members and steadily growing, or even Pinterest, where Random House has inexplicably attracted 1.5m followers, but the very idea that “something is really, chronically missing in online retail discovery” is arguably contradicted by Amazon’s 2012 results, suggesting that “online retail discovery” isn’t really a problem for readers.

It’s a problem for publishers.



Read the rest of the post on Guy LeCharles Gonzalez’ loudpoet.

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