The Discovery Problem (via @MikeShatzkin)

Following on from the recent ebook censorship overreaction, Mike Shatzkin talks about a bigger problem for readers (and by extension, authors): discovery.

Online bookselling has a long way to go before it can deliver even what it intends to deliver in response to a search or to prompt a next sale. Of course, there are two additional and larger problems that come first: knowing what the right suggestion(s) would be and being able to make enough of them to match the book shopping experiences online sales must replace.

It's a detailed piece, and highlights the challenge that modern online selling faces. For example, how many of these discovery paths have you encountered when buying books on Amazon?

[P]eople get their ideas about what to read next from many sources: people they talk to, reviews, news reports, business interactions. Some people say they get book recommendations from their friends; others (like me) say they don’t often read the same things their friends or relatives read. I suspect that online communities of readers tend to work best for people who do a lot of reading in genres and not nearly as well for people who mix fiction and non-fiction, entertainment and learning. And some people gravitate to what’s popular, so bestseller lists work best for them. It is clear that getting on a bestseller list fuels a book’s sales.

And books are bought for motivations other than “to read”, so it might also be important to know that a customer’s son is having a birthday, that a customer’s cousin is getting married, that a customer is shopping for a new home or looking for a new job or starting on a new hobby or spending money on an old one.

In my personal experience, I still receive promotions from Amazon for things I can only buy in America (and Amazon KNOWS I don't live there, they've shipped me stuff before...for like 10 years or more). Mike addresses that Google and Amazon are perfectly placed to 'know' things about you and your purchasing history to help optimise discovery. Has this actually translated to actual successful discovery for any of you, though?

Read the full article here: