The problem of Discoverability isn’t that bad

There’s been a lot of talk out there about discoverability lately, i.e. readers wanting to find books they’d love, and authors wanting the same in reverse—that the people who’d love their books find and buy them.

It reminds me of shopping for clothes—which, I freely admit, I hate. Going out into the crowds, finding clothes that look good, trying them on… (I’m all for online shopping!) I’ve often wished I had some sort of ideal personal shopper, someone who knew my exact tastes and could go out there, locate the perfectly fitting clothes that I’d also like, and then all I’d have to do was wear them with joy! (Well, that and pay. 😉 )

It’s just the same for books, isn’t it? Wouldn’t it be fabulous if there were some perfect person (or little Amazon robot, maybe?) checking all published books for you, reading them, and passing on only the ones you’d love?

I’m pretty sure it wasn’t better in the good old days either. Speaking for myself, I grew up loving fantasy novels back in the days before they became popular. I’d go to the local bookstore, and there’d be a meager display of fantasy and science fiction. Were there more books published than reached my local store? Of course. Someone somewhere decided which books to buy for the store, and those were the once we readers got to choose from. Sure, we could order books too, but in the days before the Internet, it was way harder to find out about books you might enjoy and order. You could ask some like-minded friends, but that was about it.

I guess what I’m saying here is that, yes, discoverability is a problem, but isn’t it a pretty good problem to have? There are lots of books out there! You have the chance to find them! Personally, I love the sample feature we have now thanks to e-books—that way I can read the beginning of the book while snuggled up in my favorite chair, and see for myself if it seems like my cup of tea. This feature alone has drastically improved the success rate of the books I read. In fact, I’d venture to say that I read more books than ever thanks to this! I’m sure there are many books out there that I never learn about, though, and so don’t download a sample of…

That said, the nerdy programmer side of me can’t help but be excited about all the data that’s out there now that wasn’t available before. I’m sure the algorithms can be vastly improved to give readers better recommendations. For example, I don’t normally give a rating to the books I read on my Kindle because it’s too much of a hassle, so I only rate books that I feel moved to write a review about. If it were easier to rate books as soon as I finished reading them, Amazon would pretty soon have a very good idea of what I like. They could potentially match this (both high and low ratings) to other readers’ ratings to come up with some great recommendations.

This ideal scenario seems a way off yet, I must admit. In the meantime, well, I guess we’ll muddle on. Fortunately, there are a lot of good review sites out there to help us along!

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