Ebook Analytics Part 2: The Ebook Numbers Publishers Overlook
Last week I introduced the new ebook analytics service, App Annie for Ebooks, and discussed with analytics experts the value of tracking ebook data in an Amazon-dominated landscape. Today, I continued that discussion with Michael Norris, the senior analyst and editor at Simba Information who weighs in on how his brand of analytics is quite different from App Annie's tracking tools. Although he sees value in tracking sales across a variety of metrics, Norris cautions against relying solely on these numbers.
"I hope authors and publishers don't think of analytics as something that compels them to sit in front of a computer and hit 'refresh' continuously," says Norris, "Research is about a long, hard slog of building an understanding about how all the different parts of a business or a market works. It's about being willing to look at numbers that scare the hell out of you. It's about looking at your weakest customer with the goal of making them stronger instead of simply identifying your best customer to get them to buy more."
Although tracking sales data is useful, it does not give publishers data on the entire market, such as people who aren't buying ebooks or print. And, as Simba's latest study suggest, The iPad and Its Owner (due out in late November), the number of adults who don't read may in fact be growing.
Since the inception of the iPad, Simba Information has been tracking iPad and tablet usage, and the organization quickly realized that tablet owners are not the avid readers that some publishers have assumed. What's more, those who were once owners of dedicated ereaders are switching over to tablets, embracing services that have nothing to do with reading. As tablet usage grows, ebook consumption will not grow to match it, and in fact has not. In the past four years, despite 1 in 5 adults owning an iPad, ebook consumption on the iPad has actually dropped.
These are the hard numbers and overarching trends that sales tracking cannot anticipate. Studies like Simba's are crucial for publishers, not only for pointing out "numbers that scare the hell out of you," but also for forming a long-term sales strategies.
Should publishers abandon sales tracking? Of course not! It is valuable to know how a promotion affects a title's sales, and as more data is gathered, these analytics can help publishers form effective, short-term marketing strategies.
The danger of relying on any one type of data too heavily is of course being blind to the numbers your sources fail to collect. The more data publishers can work with, the better.
Note: Look for more stories in our continuing series on ebook analytics. If you have any analytic systems you would like to share, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.