It is no secret that one of the major obstacles publishing companies face today is getting their content discovered by their target audiences. In a world where hundreds of thousands of works are being published each year, hyper-abundance has made discovery a real concern for both publishers and authors. However, there is another group that struggles with the concept of discovery in the digital age of publishing. It is the consumer group.
In March 2011, Eli Pariser warned us all about the notion of “filter bubbles” and how the Internet was being tailored to our interests without considering the ways in which this was limiting our access to all different kinds of information and perspectives. Five years later, the publishing world is faced with the same dilemma. As a consumer, one can easily go online and find books that match their interests based on past purchases or views, but what about when one is searching for something different?
In his article “Curation, Bookstores, and Open-Mindedness,” Daniel Berkowitz writes, “I find authors, moods and subjects I enjoy, sure, but I also like to have my mind blown every now and then. I like to find a cover that looks intriguing for the strangest of reasons, I like to see an author’s name pop up I’ve never heard of before, and I like, every now and then, to take a leap of faith.”
Berkowitz’s statements certainly echo the ideas first posed by Pariser five years ago. The truth about readers is that they do not need to be told what they like to read. Instead, they want to be shown what they could like to read. They want the chance to experience a new author, a different genre, a challenging work, a story that gives them a perspective much different from their own. If readers allow online booksellers and publishers to provide only book recommendations based on previous searches and purchases, then individuals will both be limited in the content they can access and completely unaware of the other titles that are out there. This, as a result, is why publishers and authors should be fearful of readers failing to discover their works. It is not that readers have become uninterested as a result of hyper-abundance. In fact, they may be more interested in reading than ever before; they just struggle to overcome the “filter bubbles” that have invaded the digital publishing realm.
Berkowitz is the senior editor of Digital Book World, and yet in his article he admits that his favorite way to discover books remains the traditional way–walking inside of a bookstore, gazing out across aisles of physical books, and allowing himself to be drawn to a specific title or cover design. So how can publishers develop methods of discovery that match the freedom readers have when walking aimlessly through a bookstore?
Hyper-abundance may make it challenging to discover books, but it does not make it impossible. The real challenge for consumers will be overcoming filtered search results and recommendations and gaining the ability to discover all kinds of content, regardless of what they have read or purchased before.
To watch the talk given by Eli Pariser in 2011, visit: http://www.ted.com/talks/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles
To read Daniel Berkowitz’s article, visit: http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2016/bookstores-curation-open-mindedness/