Interesting Data on Reading

Data has been collected from the beginning of time. After all, a census is data collection. It is collecting data on population size. We can benefit from good data. Good data can help us make informed business decisions.

man readingOver the past couple of years, I have written a few times on the data that digital reading provides book sellers, authors, and publishers. Sellers like Amazon and Kobo that have proprietary readers can track users reading habits. This compiled data can be extremely beneficial to authors and publishers.

Amazon does not share much readership data. Kobo shares a little. The one entity that is sharing the most data is Jellybooks. I have previously shared data from Jellybooks on this blog. Jellybooks provides readers with ebooks free of charge in exchange for tracking and sharing their reading data. The company embeds a piece of Javascript software into the ebook file. The software records the readers’ data when the users click a button at the end of the chapter.

Most recently, Jellybooks explored whether gender affects reading. As you probably already know, 58% of book purchases are made by women. So, it is not surprising that the Jellybook readership is made up of 80% women and 20% men. Jellybooks looked at their data to determine who was more likely to finish a book: a man or a woman.

Interestingly, Jellybooks is finding that gender does not make a difference in book completion rates. Both sexes have equal probability of finishing a book they start. This finding holds true across all genres.

Jellybooks did find one interesting gender-specific difference in reading. They discovered that men decide much faster than women if they like a book or not. In a previous post, I reported that Jellybooks has found that most readers decide in the first 10 to 40 percent if they like a book enough to finish it or not. Looking at gender specific data, Jellybooks has found that men give up on a book much sooner than women do.

As I have said before, having a strong beginning to your book is essential for hooking readers. This is especially true if you have a book for men. This new data from Jellybooks shows that you must capture a man’s attention quickly, or you will lose him. Get to the point right out of the gate, don’t ramble, and build suspense early to keep your male readers hooked.

Related Posts:
Collecting Reading Data
What are People Reading?
Hitting the Bull’s Eye

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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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The Newest DIY eBook Publishing Program

First Amazon launched the Kindle Direct Publishing platform, and then Barnes & Noble launched PubIt! for the Nook. After that, Smashwords took the scene by storm followed by BookBaby. Not to be left out, Apple launched its iBooks Author program, and now, Author Solutions, Inc., has launched BookTango.

Each of these ebook publishing and distribution programs allows authors and publishers to upload and distribute ebooks very cost effectively. Anyone can create, edit, format, publish, promote, and distribute an ebook via these ebook publishing platforms.

BookTango, being the newest player on the field, is trying to grab as many authors as they can during their roll-out phase in order to cement their position amongst their competition. To that end, BookTango is offering the maximum possible royalties from ebook sales for those authors who use BookTango to publish an ebook before July 4, 2012.

BookTango’s current offer means that authors can publish an ebook for free and keep the entire sales price for their ebook (after ebook retailers take their standard fee). In other words, BookTango is not going to take a percentage from sales of books published between now and July 4, 2012, for themselves.

This is a great offer. It is also a great marketing strategy.

So many self-published authors and publishers I talk to hate to give away free books. They talk about how much these books cost them and how they feel they are throwing the money away while other people are benefiting from their handouts.

Remember, it takes money to make money. Companies pay to promote their products. Authors and publishers are not exempt. Author Solutions is paying to offer this program. Nothing is free. BookTango will not receive any monetary remuneration from any ebook published using their service for the next two months.

How much money have you been spending to promote and sell your books lately?

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eBook Price Trends

The Wall Street Journal recently noted that the many people receiving e-readers as gifts at the end of 2011 would find that “the price gap between the print and e-versions of some top sellers has now narrowed to within a few dollars.”

Many big publishers have adopted the agency-pricing model (where publishers set the price of the ebook, not the retailer) in rebellion against Amazon’s $9.99 pricing strategy for ebooks. Publishers were scared that Amazon could gain control of pricing and then continue to drive ebook prices down, eventually paying less to publishers and decreasing their profits. As a result, many publishers are now pricing the ebook version of a new book only slightly lower than the price of the print version. For example, Walter Isaacson’s best-selling biography of Steve Jobs sells for $14.99 in the ebook version and $17.40 in the hardcover edition.

Interestingly, some experts are claiming that by increasing ebook prices, publishers have slowed the ebook market growth. However, it appears that this may not be true.

One market research firm, Yankee Group, found that, on the whole, ebook prices are falling. They report that “the average price of a consumer digital book had fallen to $8.19 by the end of 2011 from $9.23 in 2009.” This firm also forecasts that the average ebook prices will drop to $7 from the current $9 over the 2012 year.

Whether ebook prices rise or fall, I highly doubt that higher ebook prices will slow the growth of digital reading significantly. After all, digital reading is not just about price. It is about a new way to easily store and read books. eBook sales have grown and are still growing. The Yankee Group expects ebook sales to be 4 times higher by 2013 then they were in 2010.

If these conflicting reports leave you wondering what the best price for the digital version of your next title should be, take heart. There is no new hard and fast rule for pricing ebooks. I believe the old rule is still valid. Price your book within the price range of its competing titles. Pricing it significantly lower or higher than similar titles will curtail your sales.

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