Archive for July 9th, 2011

The eBook Tsunami of Crap is Crap

Posted in On Writing  by John Brown on July 9th, 2011
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Some folks say ebooks will foist a terrible problem upon readers–they’ll soon have to wade through mountains of crap to find a book to read. It will be a terrible chore. J.A. Konrath gives his answer to this lament. Kris Rusch gives hers.

Here’s mine: there will NEVER be a tsunami of crap facing a reader looking to buy ebooks or any other kind of book. Ever.

Why?

REASON 1

Buyers REFUSE to look at seas of choices–crap or otherwise. Shoppers always seek to limit choices (too costly to look at everything) and use a number of methods to immediately narrow those choices down: recommendations, reviews, what’s on the shelf, etc. (For a fascinating look into a few facets of how we make choices, listen to this Radio Lab espisode.)

For example, when shopping for vanilla you don’t go searching through the 500 brands available online and in various stores–Mexican, Vodka, American, Rum, organic, generic, brand, etc. It’s just not worth the time. Something on the shelf is usually GOOD ENOUGH.

Likewise, nobody cares to look at 150,000 titles to find the best. They don’t have the time. In fact, they don’t need to. They can usually find a number of books that are intriguing enough in the “smaller” selection any given vendor sets before them.

In the case of Amazon ebooks, that selection is the best-sellers, the ads, and the this person bought that.

Nobody ever sees the 4 gazillion books. Ever. They don’t want to.

REASON 2

Vendors can’t display a gazillion choices, even if they wanted to, which they don’t (studies have actually shown that providing shoppers too big a selection leads to FEWER sales).

And no, just because Amazon says it have 2 quintillion titles for sale that does not mean they’ve been displayed. You only see a handful of titles at a time.

Even if you scroll through the various lists, you are rarely looking at more than a dozen choices at a time. You’ll probably see less than 200 titles total any given time you go shopping.

Vendors NEVER display a tsunami. EVER.

REASON 3

Readers have MORE THAN ENOUGH leads to fill their capacity for reading.  Even if they wanted a sea of options, they wouldn’t wade through them because they don’t have to–it’s too easy to find something to read.

Leads are everywhere. There are recommendations from friends, family, reviewers, celebrites, and Amazon’s this person bought that.  There are leads from best-seller lists (another type of tacit recommendation). Leads from browsing.

Readers have leads coming out their ears.

This is important because the number of leads any given reader has far excees that reader’s capacity for reading.

How long does it take you to find one book that looks interesting? From browsing or recommendations or whatever?

Minutes.

Maybe if you’re having a really bad day, it takes an hour. But it takes so much longer to read one story than it does to find one you want to read.  That’s why we all have two year’s worth of books to read in our queues.

So. There is no sea of crap. There NEVER was or ever will be one for any given reader.

Buyers avoid selection seas like the plague. Vendors don’t provide such seas anyway. And readers don’t need them–they have more than enough leads which turn out to be exciting enough to fill up all their reading slots and more.

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