What Are People Reading?

The days of a man’s word being all you need to cement a deal are no longer—even among those who call themselves Christians. I am sure that you have experienced this.
You offer your book free to readers in exchange for a review. Rarely do all the readers who request the book actually follow through with a review.

Not Read

JellyBooks, a service that provides readers with free digital Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs) of new books in exchange for a review, report that only 50-55% of their books ever get opened. That means that less than half of the reviewers are actually reading and writing a review of the book.

Fortunately, BookCrash‘s (Christian Small Publishers Association‘s Books for Bloggers Review Program) review rate is higher than that. BookCrash sends mostly print books for review and tracks reviews. The service does not let bloggers request a new book to review until they have reviewed the one they already received.

Interestingly, this phenomena is not solely related to digital review copies. Kobo recently revealed that only 60% of ebooks that are purchased through their service are ever opened. That statistic does not count how many of those books are actually read all the way through. Interestingly, Kobo has also found that the more expensive a book was, the higher the likelihood that the buyer would at least start the book, although, Kobo did not share data on whether the book was more likely to be completed or not.

One of the interesting pieces of data shared by these two companies is that the decline in reader attention starts early, generally within the first 10-40% of the book. In other words, those that abandon a book do so in the first half, not the latter half.

While this data did not measure reading rates for print books, I think that the trend is much the same. How many of you have a book or two or three lying around your house that you purchased and have not yet read? I will wager many of you.

I think that authors can learn a few things from these statistics:

  1. Expect to send out more review copies of your book than you will actually receive reviews for.
  2. Strong beginnings are important in a book. They are especially important in fiction, but nonfiction books need strong beginnings with plenty of meat also.
  3. Just because you price your ebook low and get a number of sales does not mean that your book will actually be read and recommended to others.

What about you? Do you have books either on your e-reader or in your house that you have not yet read? I confess: I do—in both print and digital.

Related Posts:
Important Information for Christian Authors
Are Reviews Really Important?
Musings on BookCrash
Are Reviews Important?

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A Shrinking Audience—Or Is It?

For years, studies have reported that the amount of time people spend reading is decreasing. I keep waiting to hear that this trend is reversing, but alas, I wait in vain.

reading around the world

Many people thought that the rise of ebooks would help reverse the slide of reading time, especially for children, many of whom appear to prefer digital apparatuses to physical books. However, the latest reports indicate that this is not the case.

According to government studies, since 1984, the percent of 13-year-olds who are weekly readers went down from 70% to 53%, and the percent of 17-year-olds who are weekly readers went from 64% to 40%. The percent of 17-year-olds who never or hardly ever read tripled during this period, from 9% to 27%.

As an author, an independent publisher, and someone who is in the business of helping authors and small publishers market their books to readers, I find these statistics depressing. It appears that we have an ever-shrinking audience to market books to.

I guess the silver lining on the cloud is that, with digital books, marketing and selling books worldwide has become easier. Being able to sell a book around the world increases the potential audience for a book, making up for the declining reading population in the United States.

Are you selling your book worldwide? If so, what countries are you having the most success in?

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Don’t Overlook Smart Phones

One of my daughter’s middle-school friends hates to read. Her mother says that getting her to read anything is worse than getting teeth pulled. This girl will always find shortest book she can when required to read something for school.

Recently, this middle-school girl obtained an iPod Touch. One day while browsing around the Internet, she came across an ebook that she thought she might be interested in reading. She decided to read this ebook for her next school project.

Little did she know, this book would turn out to be the longest book she ever read. You see, not having a physical copy, she did not think to look at the number of pages in the book’s description. Reading on an iPod is similar to reading on a smart phone, you only see a portion of a page at a time. This girl told me that when she got to chapter 24, she began to wonder how many chapters the book had. After going back to the Table of Contents to look, she discovered the book had a whopping 72 chapters.

Here is the good part. Not knowing that the book was so long, she began reading and got hooked on the story. Now, she is determined to complete the entire book—all via her iPod through reading in the cloud.

Recently, Bowker noticed a disparity between the number of Young Adult ebooks being purchased and the relatively low number of kids who claim to read ebooks. They decided to investigate. What Bowker found was that 55% of the buyers of Young Adult books are 18 years old or older. Those in the 30 to 44 age group reported they were purchasing the title for themselves 78% of the time.

With over half of the readers of Young Adult books being adults (taking into account both print and ebook format), what does this say about the reading of tweens/teens?

The data found in Bowker’s study combined with the recent findings by the Pew Internet and American Life Project that 45% of all U.S. adults now own a smartphone and that 29% of all ebooks are read on smartphone, makes me ponder a couple of things.

  1. I fear that many young people may be like my daughter’s friend. In our age of instant gratification and fast-moving media, many youth may be turned off by the length of books, leading them to consistently choose other activities over reading. Maybe digital reading may indeed help increase the number of youth reading for pleasure.
  2. Smartphones may currently be the most common mobile e-reading device.

What does this mean for you as an author or publisher? First, be aware that if you have written or published a Young Adult book, the majority of your readers may actually be adults. Second, make sure your digital books are available for sale through Apple’s iStore and the android stores (such as Google Play) for readers to purchase and download your book onto their smartphones.

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Go Home and Read

The statistics on the decline in book reading are depressing. To combat this trend, authors, publishers, and literary organizations are coming up with creative ways to encourage people to read.

A few years ago, the New Zealand Book Council created this ad that they paid to have play in movie theaters. The message was simple, but important: “Go home, read a book.”

Hopefully, at least a few people took the message to heart. What other creative ways have you seen people being encouraged to read?