It goes without saying that the last couple years have been…turbulent. The changes to our world have been far reaching and widespread. Not surprisingly, all this upheaval has altered not only our way of life, but also the way we consume media, such as books. As a recent study carried out by the University of Portland in conjunction with the American Library Association and the Independent Book Publishers Association reveals, uninterrupted concentration on a book has largely given way to a consumer preference for a “connected media ecosystem.” Translation? Now we expect even our entertainment to multitask.
According to the study, reading for entertainment is still the number one reason people buy books, yet “engagement” or the way consumers interact with books can run the gamut. According to the report, 61% of eBook readers and 70% of audiobook listeners reported multitasking when engaging with these digital formats. As professors Noorda and Berens (2020) explain, "data supports broadening the notion of what constitutes immersive attention. Immersion does not mean only the deep, uninterrupted concentration we associate with reading printed books. Immersion can also happen while multitasking.”
What does this mean for authors? There’s no better time to think critically about your book’s reach when it comes to format and distribution. Offering your book in multiple formats will greatly increase your potential “readership”.
Key findings show that avid book consumers are equally active across other media. This presents an opportunity for publishers and authors to consider how to capitalize on cross-media discovery, which means marketing books using a variety of channels to create awareness.
As Noorda & Berens (2020) assert, methods of book discovery are becoming increasingly diverse. Now, recommendations from friends (once the largest category of discovery) accounts for just one fifth of the surveyed population. This suggests that people discover books in a variety of other ways, and allows for greater opportunity to reach potential book buyers, borrowers, and gift givers. As the study of current trends shows, libraries, bookstores, and online channels "mutually reinforce" each other. Activities such as author events at libraries, perusing bookshelves, and browsing online catalogs, all lead to new book discovery. It’s important now more than ever that authors have a fully integrated book marketing strategy that includes both in-person and online or virtual events, publicity, and promotions.
Our worldwide health crisis has played an undeniable role in evicting us from life as we knew it and shaping what has emerged in its stead. The full extent to which it has shaped our preferences and behaviors as consumers will surely continue to come into focus. Yet, as we look to the horizon it’s clear that new directions and behaviors are on the rise in the publishing industry.
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