Reading seems like a solitary activity. You don’t usually pay attention to how other people approach reading, except perhaps for family members when you’re waiting for them to finish a book you want to read.
Authors and publishers, however, are keenly interested in how readers go about their reading, because it holds the key to the future of the industry.
Think about how consumer behavior changed movies. Used to be, everyone saw movies at the theater. Then, TV began running movies several years after their theatrical release, albeit with commercials and edits. VHS made it possible to watch movies whenever you wanted them. TiVo and VHS recording changed how we watched TV, too. Then came movie rental stores, which gave way to RedBox and Netflix. Now it’s not only possible to pretty much watch what you want when you want, but ‘binge watching’ is the new normal.
The music industry had its own shake-up, with albums giving way to CDs and then Napster, followed by iPods and iTunes. Radio went from broadcast to satellite to Sirius to Pandora and Spotify, or just skip it and plug in your iPod.
When consumers change how they consume a product–whether it’s cereal, music, movies or books–it creates big ripples through the industry that produces the product, and has real-life implications for the product creators.
Hence, my survey. I put together a 9 question survey to try to find out how readers (or at least my readers) consume books. Paper or pixel? Do you buy or borrow, or grab freebies? Where do you get your books? How do you pick new books and authors? How many books do you read? How many do you pay for? Do you like having extra content (think short stories and novellas that add on to book series)? Do you binge-read? What about new series–do you buy the books as they come out, or wait for the series to finish and buy them all? Do you want to ‘starve’ between books in a series or nibble on short stories until the next book comes out?
The answers matter. For example, binge-readers who wait to buy a series until it’s completed are playing with fire, because if the first books don’t sell well, future books may be cancelled or series might not be extended. (Note–when you read the books is up to you. Just do your favorite authors a favor and buy the books when they come out, the closer to launch date the better for purposes of sales tracking.) On the other hand, if binge-readers plow through all the available books in one fell swoop, having extra short stories and novellas might be popular to tide them over to the next book. Publishers don’t know whether having extra stories available over-saturates the market, or keeps readers engaged and connected for the next book. And if too large a percentage of readers only consume books from libraries, borrowing from friends and buying at used book stores, neither publishers nor authors have much chance to earn a living.
My survey isn’t likely to be large enough to be statistically significant for the whole industry, but I figure a snapshot of the reading preferences of the readers I touch via social media is still more than I had before.
So…if you’re interested, why not take the survey here . I’m even offering a prize drawing if you fill in your email address and sign up for my newsletter in question 10. Once I get 100 responses, I’ll tell you what I’ve learned.
Oh, and since I’m betting on readers being extra-content friendly, the newest additions for your binge-reading pleasure are Cold Fury in the Blaine McFadden King’s Convicts series and Grave Voices in the steampunk Storm and Fury Adventures.
And if you want to pull out your crystal balls (or your Magic 8 balls) and predict what the trends will be, I’d love to see your ideas in the comments!