Discovery: your problem, not mine

by Brad Inman on

After finishing Richard Ford’s new book Canada, my standards were high for my next read. A number of books sat in my queue, but none of them seemed appetizing after the Ford feast.

I Googled the “Booker Prize” and found A.D Miller’s Snowdrops. Nominated for the award in 2011, the novel is set in contemporary Russia and takes the reader through a tale of white-collar corruption and debauchery. It was a satisfying transition from Ford to my next book, We are Anonymous, Parmy Olson’s 512-page story of the kid hackers who bounced around the Internet stealing corporate data, aiding Arab Spring protests and creating online havoc.

I learned of Olson’s book through online reviews and magazine excerpts from a variety of publications. A blogger that I follow recommended my next book Readmde: A Novel. Overwhelmed by that experience, I began a series of well-written short-form Byliner originals and Kindle Singles starting with Heaven and Mel,  by Joe Eszerhas, which was recommended by a friend. Then, the Amazon recommendation engine took over my reading habits for the next few months, starting with the The Ghost by Paige Williams.

Like most readers, I learn about books from friends, search and recommendation engines, online publications and reviews in print pubs such as the New York Review of Books and the Sunday New York Times Book Review section. It is a dynamic and unplanned process. I ignore ratings, bestseller lists and online Amazon reviews. That’s me.

In the age of an overwhelming selection of reading options, the discovery quagmire has never been more daunting for authors and publishers.  How do readers discover my book?

As a reader, the avalanche of content is not a problem, just the opposite; it is a bounty of new reading choices.

In the old world, Ford and Olson’s books would have found me.

Then, Eszerhas and Williams’ books would not have surfaced in my book searching. In fact, these short-form books, in all likelihood, would not have been published at all. Today, the ease with which someone can publish an eBook has enabled these works to be published.

Do I have a “discovery problem”? No. The ways I find good books works pretty well.  Am I missing something? Sure. Does it bother me?  No.

Do I occasionally purchase a dog from Brad’s hodge podge discovery engine? Sure. Am I upset about it?  Nope. Do I buy more books?  Yes. In the end, I am my own trusted rating service, though it is arguably expensive.

Readers v. publisher interests are further misaligned by falling prices. As is often the case, technology is serving the consumer well, as it disrupts another industry along the way.

Afterthought: check out this conference DBW confab on discovery solutions for publishers and authors.



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