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Store Closures Could Hurt Book Discovery

Bookstore closings is a bad sign for publishers, as book discover is still largely driven by store shelves. According to Peter Hildick-Smith, President of the Codex Group, who spoke on a panel of analysts at the O’Reilly “Tools of Change” conference yesterday, less than 2% of new book discovery comes from big digital media like search, Facebook and Twitter, while 30% comes from store discovery. “When you lose the store base, you lose discovery,” he said.

According to Hildick-Smith, 120 million U.S. adults have read a book in the last year, but only about 18% of US adults are purchasing most of the books. This “power group” is most important to publishers.

Statistics can tell us a lot about consumer behavior, but publishers looking to learn from this information should dig deeper to apply predictions. Hildick-Smith said that qualitative group research has benefits, “it is a great way to hear basic ideas, and understand how people feel about something. But not a good way to get concrete answers,” but researchers should combine this with the quantitative side of things.

Kelly Gallagher, Vice President of Publishing Services, at RR Bowker agreed that qualitative and quantitative research should be combined for the best results. He also said that sometimes you have to look beyond what people say they will do, to what they really do. RR Bowker did a study after Christmas and asked consumers, now that you own an iPad and have downloaded at least one book, in the next year, will you buy less paperbacks. Thirty-six percent of respondents said yes, they will be buying fewer books, but so far only 14% of people have bought less paperbacks. “Research shouldn’t make you smarter, it should make you money,” said Gallagher.

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