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Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Reader Buying Habits: Online vs Brick-and-mortar

I've been doing some thinking lately about the similarities and differences between purchasing a book in a physical bookstore, versus purchasing one online. In particular, I've been thinking about how purchasing a digital-only book (an e-book) compares to purchasing a physical one at a physical store.

A survey I read recently said that, just like people who buy physical books, the vast majority of people who buy digital books don't know what they want to buy when they first visit the store. So, in order to get your book purchased, you need to focus on the following things, in order:

  1. Your book needs a great cover image, and it needs to look good as both a thumbnail, as well as in a higher resolution. Seeing a list full of book cover images is the equivalent in the "physical" world of someone standing in a bookstore and scanning over all the books on the shelves, from a distance. Clicking on a great looking book cover is then the equivalent of walking up to one of those books, picking it up off the shelf, and taking a closer look.
  2. Similarly, a catchy title is the next thing that gets a potential reader's attention, and it's what makes a reader want to read the synopsis of your book. This is the equivalent of a browser in a physical bookstore turning over the book and reading the blurb on the back cover.
  3. That synopsis, if written properly, makes the reader want to download your book's Free Sample, which is the equivalent of the reader flipping open your book in the bookstore and scanning through the first couple of paragraphs.
  4. Only if you've done all of the above right, and you've managed to grab the attention of exactly the right reader, does that reader click the "Buy Now" link. That's the equivalent of that reader carrying his new treasure (and your labour of love) with him to the counter to pay!
Despite the above similarities, I think are are two very big differences between purchasing books in physical bookstores, and purchasing them online (aside from the obvious fact, that buying books online does not require the reader to get out of his pyjamas's or go anywhere!):
  1. In the physical bookstore, once the reader has picked up your book and is heading towards the counter, he is still bombarded by every other book on the shelves, as he makes his way. He can always still notice something that he thinks is better, put your book back, and change his mind and pick something else. He can still do this online, but he's not forced to look at any other options if he doesn't want to. He can proceed directly to checkout and never know that any other options were available.
  2. Two words: Community Reviews! Community Reviews are an online publisher's bread and butter. They're kind of the equivalent of word of mouth advertising for physical books, but on steroids because readers can read what other people have had to say about your book, even though they've never met (and never will)! You simply cannot get that kind of exposure in a physical bookstore.
It's interesting to me to look at all the similarities in buying patterns, and what makes people buy books online, as opposed to in a brick-and-mortar store. What do you think about it? Have you ever sat and thought about it, or do I just have too much time on my hands?

If you liked what I had to say here, then won't you please consider taking a look at my short fantasy tale, A Petition to Magic? It's a story about a Wizard who has forsworn casting magic. The story has been described by reviewers as a fun, short read, with a clear message, reading almost like a parable. It's available at various ebook retailers. Please Google it, and have a look!

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