How Are Our Readers Discovering Books?

As a librarian with a passion for sharing books (and specially science fiction, fantasy, and other genres), I have enjoyed watching as the publishing of books and ebooks has changed the reading landscape in numerous ways. Yet the one thing that I think most of us don’t fully appreciate is the extent to which how our readers are finding books is constantly evolving. An interesting article in the Washington Post last year looked at Amazon’s decision to buy Goodreads, a site which has been a gold mine for readers and provided valuable exposure for countless authors.

One noteworthy statistical trend was this: the number of readers who picked up their next book because of seeing it marketed online via social media or sites like Goodreads (NOT bookseller websites) doubled between 2010 and 2012. In most other categories (i.e. personal book recommendations through word of mouth), trends haven’t changed much. It’s clear, though, that the potential for the online community as a reader’s advisory tool is still under development, and it’s eating away at some of the more traditional channels our readers once navigated to find new books.

This has a few significant repercussions. If platforms like Goodreads are the future of reader’s advisory, how can libraries get more involved? Right now many summer reading programs use participant-driven book reviews in some form or other. This includes teen and adult summer reading programs. But often these reviews are used exclusively for the summer reading program and the participants aren’t encouraged by their library to tap into their online reading community. My own library has been guilty of not taking advantage of this potential. What if we encouraged our patrons to post their reviews and rate books on sites like Goodreads where they could reach out and connect more easily with other readers? Shouldn’t that be what libraries are about? Libraries are good at seeing the value of local things, but it’s important to see the big picture too. What the big picture is showing us, especially in the midst of the recent conflict between Amazon and Hatchette, is that the publishing world is up for grabs, but that’s not the only part of the reading landscape in flux.

We as librarians need to be anticipating these types of trends; what pipelines will our readers want to use to find that next great read? Because one thing is certain; very few will be walking into their local bookstore to ask a salesperson what book they’d recommend.

For more information on the article I mentioned in this post, take a look at the link below:


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