Discovery 101

At Cloud Unbound, a blog about “libraries, eBooks, publishing and all the sublimely prickly stuff in between”, Heather McCormack last month posted “The cure for discovery discontent: Channels should help people”.

In it, she examines some of the recent discussion about how people find and buy books, notably a report and presentation by Peter Hildick-Smith of the Codex Group, who claimed “readers are likely to go online to buy a book after having learned about it elsewhere.

McCormack goes on to observe:

An overriding takeaway I heard in the wake of Hildick-Smith’s report was that we have to protect physical bookstores better (no argument there), but it would be stupid to ignore the opportunity embedded in a few other statistics, unsettling as they may be on the surface. According to Bowker, generated more than 25 percent of all book sales between January and September 2012 and 30 percent of dollars spent on books. At “Libraries: More Important Than Ever for Discovery,” a panel I sat on late Thursday afternoon, George Coe, president of Baker & Taylor Library & Education, said that U.S. public libraries circulate upwards of three billion items a year—that’s a lot of eyes in a relatively calm corner of web real estate.

Her post offers a number of examples in which libraries are reimagining their role as vehicles for content discovery. These include Baltimore County’s Online Public Access Catalog, where “a reader can discover the print, ebook, audiobook, and film editions of a work, regardless of which vendor offers access”, as well as the Darien Public Library, home of “First Look Darien”, a kind of book group on steroids.

Invoking some work that Laura Dawson and I have done around the value of metadata in assisting online discovery, McCormack argues that the consequence of better metadata …

… has to be more sales because publishers would be playing into a reality, not a trend. People live online, look for and buy books online, as the research demonstrates. But there’s no need to agonize about or undermine a behavior that could bolster the publishing industry.

Or, it's not enough to just work with what has worked in the past. Follow the reader, to lead her.

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.

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