book discoverability discovery dbw digital book world publisher publishing data self-publishing writing ebooks digitalBook discoverability—the current buzz word in the publishing industry—was the focus of the Digital Book World 2014 conference last week. Many publishing bigwigs believe that book discoverability is a big problem in publishing right now. Not to be confused with book discovery, which falls on the side of the reader.

According to Andrew Rhomberg, there are five shades of book discovery:

  • Serendipitous discovery—the random stumbling over a book
  • Social discovery—word of mouth and trusted recommendations
  • Distributed discovery—discovering books from sources of distribution such as book reviews, conferences, blogs, even at bookstores
  • Data-driven discovery—books marketed to readers through data, such as apps or ads personalized based on shopping habits or previous purchases
  • Incentivized discovery—book giveaways, contest rewards, promotions, and the like.

The Difference Between Book Discovery and Book Discoverability

The terms discovery and discoverability are thrown around almost interchangeably, but they do not mean the same thing. Book discovery falls on the reader’s side. The discovery of new books to read is not issue, thanks to the sheer volume of self-published books—both ebooks and print books—as well as continued marketing of traditionally published books. There is currently an oversaturation of reading material literally at reader’s fingertips. Book discovery is not a problem, at least not if you’re looking for easy reading material. Of course, one problem with many self-published titles out there is that anyone with a computer can become a published author, so many self-published books lack proper editing (and formatting). In that sense, if a reader were more picky about grammar, spelling, and formatting, book discovery may be a bit more difficult when wading through the flood of books.

Book discoverability, however, falls more to the side of the publisher—whether the publisher is a traditional publisher or an author who takes on the role of their own publisher. Book discoverability is the chance a book has of being discovered, particularly when it comes to its marketing ability. And with the aforementioned oversaturation, book discoverability can be a daunting problem to publishers, especially if they aren’t embracing the innovation that technology allows.

Publishing is a Data Game

So how can publishers change book discoverability to work in their favor? As Porter Anderson points out, it’s now a data game. With the publishing industry shifting more to digital content, the way content is dealt with—produced, distributed, marketed—is new and unfamiliar.

Sebastian Posth, CEO of Publishing Data Networks, says, “In the future content, will be available in many different ways via APIs, Web sites, apps, native formats, streams. This will make it impossible to come up with a successful offering without knowing how the readers like to interact and engage with the content.”

If publishers want to ease the problem of book discoverability, they need to understand data and use analytic insights to create more compelling previews, book summaries, and interactive content outside of a book purchase and to build relationships centered around customer purchase behavior—what drives them from discovery to purchase.

“Publishing is not about shipping units, entities or containers to a single user anymore,” says Posth. “It is about distributing transmedia stories across multiple platforms and formats to an audience that will use the content in ways that the publisher might not even have intended.”

Publishers who don’t take data seriously will only get left in the dust. As Laura Dawson, Bowker’s Product Manager for Identifiers, says, “Selling is now a data game. Not learning everything you can about how search works is leaving money on the table.” By using data, publishers get to see how clients respond to different sales cues as they come in from different entry points into the sales funnel. And understanding client purchase behavior can help publishers stay innovative in the face of waning book discoverability.