I was reading an article on a presentation at the Frankfurt Book Fair, which was about how book readers find out about books. The organisation, Codex, interviewed over 250,000 readers since 2004. They found that a major change has taken place in the way that readers discover books compared to the past traditional sources.They discussed how those of us who purchase books online generally know what we’re looking for. We go there, we purchase and we’re out. But those of us who visit a bookshop go in with an open mind as to what to buy. We want to browse.
For some it’s that experience of picking up a book, holding it and reading bits of it. It’s a trusted recommendation from bookshop staff, the feel, the size, the appealing look of parts of the book in addition to the cover that encourage a reader to buy it. But those are not experiences you can have online. For online book buyers, it’s the recommendations we gather from other trusted sources – such as Good Reading, or a newspaper or a friend – that help us choose a book.
But now these are not our only sources of recommendations. Readers’ reviews are freely available on various websites, and some of these have come into question recently with the possibility of publishers or authors faking reviews or paying reviewers for a positive comment. I suspect this has been going on for some time, but the increasing number of online browsers has meant that it has come to the fore. How do we differentiate the genuine from the fake? It means that we have to choose our resources carefully.