Could An Overdependence on Data Hurt The Book Industry?
It's fair to say that despite the considerable benefits of data, publishers are under no grand delusions about the continued importance of artistry in the industry. Nihar Malaviya, EVP and COO for Penguin Random House U.S., says that data can be used to empower, not subvert, artistic impulse. "As always, when it comes to making editorial acquisitions, our editors remain guided by their instincts and expertise, their taste, and an understanding of the prospective consumer market for the submission. Data plays a supplemental role in the process."
Continues Malaviya: "The next great American novel isn't going to be written by data. It's going to be written by someone who is passionate and compelling about a story they have to tell. One of our roles as a publisher is to aggregate the data and make it accessible and meaningful to authors, who will then use it as they see best. Or not."
Malaviya also insists that data is helping publishers address reader discoverability challenges. "Access to increased data allows us to learn what resonates with readers and to then share with them targeted book recommendations. We can also use data to enhance our understanding of readers to better deliver access to titles of ours they might be interested in."
And of course data isn't a new trend in publishing, says Malaviya. "Publishers have been using BookScan to look at sales data for the past decade. There is just more data available than ever before. Access to data does not control their decision-making process, but it can constructively contribute to the work our publishing professionals do each day -- ranging from acquiring a book to marketing it."
Jennifer Yu and Ellen Harvey contributed reporting and research to this article.