I agree with Laura Fredericks that there is an audience discovery problem for authors (and publishers). But I really can’t get on board with this idea that readers have a book discovery problem, no matter how many times I hear it. I think publishers just really want readers to have discovery problems, so we can all be in the same boat.
I have been working with readers for years, and I have heard many, many, many complaints from them in re: books. I have heard them complain that they have too much to read, and I have heard them complain that their favorite authors don’t write fast enough, and I have heard them complain that the book they want to read is not in paperback yet, and I have heard them complain that they will never catch up with their book piles, and I have heard them complain that their spouse has asked them to stop buying books for six months, and I have heard them complain that certain famous authors haven’t been writing as well, and I have heard them complain that there is too much good TV right now and it’s basically impossible to balance reading time and TV time anymore. (I myself have also levied each of these complaints.)
What I do not hear them say is that they can’t find anything to read. Now, to be fair, I mostly deal with readers in bookstores, in libraries, and online, which are places designed for book discovery. But apps like the one discussed in this article are targeting that exact audience: people who are already readers. I am just not convinced discovery is a problem for these people. Is there some sort of survey I missed that indicated that half of people who purchased books in the last year said they were not sure how they’d figure out what to read next? Or is book discovery becoming a new way to say marketing in much the same way that all of a sudden we say signage instead of signs?
I don’t doubt that there are book discovery deserts in this country, places where people have real problems finding something to read: places where Internet connections are not guaranteed, places where the only place in town to buy books is the grocery store, places where budget cuts have left library hours in tatters, places where adult literacy rates make book discovery pointless. Further, there are just as many potential readers out there who feel completely disengaged with books and reading altogether, either for the reasons above, or because the industry is not interested in what they want to read; for whom discovery is not interesting, and the onus is on us to make it interesting again. Where are the apps for that?