How Social Sharing, E-samples, And Mobile Can Revitalize Book Publishing
Certainly social media is a great way to spread the word -- and find a narrow audience of like-minded readers. In practice, however, social media marketing may not be sustainable for busy writers and publishers. All this could change, however, if the shared social content is less about book promotion and more about sharing the actual book.
E-Samples And The Mobile Reader
Around 2010, the ebook phenomenon reached a tipping point among North American readers, as documented in the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) survey report series, Consumer Attitudes Toward E-Book Reading. The percentage of book buyers reading ebooks on a daily or weekly basis rose sharply -- from about 5% in 2009 to over 20% in 2012. In 2012, the Association of American Publishers (AAP) reported that overall ebook revenues ($282.3M) have surpassed hardcover revenues ($229.6M) for adult fiction and nonfiction titles. For some book categories, especially the "guilty pleasure" fiction genres, ebooks have surpassed print by even greater margins. Preferred e-reading device preferences also shifted significantly during that time, with dedicated e-readers being supplanted by multi-purpose tablets and smartphones.
One outcome of this shift has been the use of ebook samples in the promotion and sales process. In the BISG study, a consistently high percentage of ebook "power buyers" (those who acquire ebooks on a weekly basis) cited "receiving a free/promotional sample chapter" as a purchase influence. Just as library-based and informal book borrowing has led to increased discovery and sales for printed books, ebook samples have proven to be strong incentives for drawing in new readers.
The BISG study also paid attention to the commerce aspects of ebooks. Whether a potential reader learned about the book through social media, or by reading a sample chapter, or both, ease of purchase was of paramount importance. The fact that the ebook could be bought easily -- on the very device on which it would be read -- was the real force behind the ebook shift. Vendors who had a more complex sales process, like Sony, did not do as well as those who created a relatively frictionless, on-device process.