Evolving world of book reviews

Although traditional media remain a source for book reviews, social media and online sites play an ever-increasing role in how readers choose and discuss books. What can be said about the evolving world of book reviews and recommendations?

A 2013 survey showed that online sources dominate when readers look for recommendations. And, while more than half of survey participants get recommendations from friends, we can speculate that the definition of ‘friends’ now includes people known only through social media – another online source. (You can read more about these surveys here.)sources-of-recommendations

Responding to another question, 20% of readers use only digital sources, while 13% of participants said they did not use online sites. Age also plays a role; younger readers are more likely than older readers to consult online sources. Probing further, the survey revealed that Goodreads, genre fiction blogs, and small book review blogs are the top three digital sources by a wide margin. Combining surveys done in 2012, 2013 and 2015, readers mentioned hundreds of book blogs run by individuals or small groups. Clearly readers love to share their book reading experiences with others!

What are others saying?

Quoted in a Daily Beast article The Future of Book Reviews, Herve Le Tellier, a French writer, said, “When you go to Amazon, you will get advice to read a book like the one you already read. If you follow that advice you will always read the same book, maybe not written by the same person, but the same book.”

In a 2015 session of American Historical Association on the future of book reviews, “Princeton University Press executive editor Brigitta van Rheinberg summarized the evolving landscape this way: book reviewing is increasingly democratic and diverse, the marketing of books is more influenced by their authors, publishing is more global, and books and reviews are able to garner extensive attention from an ever-widening audience.”

Publishers Weekly talks about prepub book reviews offered by sites such as BooklistKirkus ReviewsLibrary Journal, and Publishers Weekly, all of which preview books in advance for librarians, broadcast producers, editors, and other publishing professionals. But not for the general reader.

In Critical Mass, the blog of the National Book Critics Circle, Karen Long writes on The Future of Book Reviewing: “The old model of a ‘great mind/great brain’ delivering verdicts from on high in old media is shifting into a new format for thinking about books. It is animated by the proliferating enthusiasms of book bloggers, many of whom are novices.” In the same article, Kate Travers, a marketing strategist, said “that authors and publishers still seek the general audience, and reader, that old media used to aggregate.” [apologies that I have lost the link to this article]

For the general reader, Goodreads and Amazon are most prominent, however, there are also sites like Bookish (whose goal is to give readers more information about the books, authors, and genres that they love while also introducing them to new titles, debut writers, and genres they never thought they’d read.); Riffle (Riffle inspires people to read more books by connecting them with librarians, avid readers, authors and deals on books they’ll love.); Jellybooks; WhatShouldIReadNext; NoveList; BookBrowse; Shelfari; LibraryThing; to name just a few.

Authors write and readers read. Connecting an author’s work with potential readers is an important objective of book reviewers and book recommenders. Reading is time and money and entertainment and learning and so much more. Indeed, I suspect each person defines their reading objectives differently, but they all seek some assurance that their investment will be justified.

Clearly there’s a difference between recommendation and review. Purists laud the erudite review and dismiss the casual recommendation but there is a middle ground to be found on Goodreads and many book blogs where thoughtful readers offer well-written input on the merits of a book. You just need to find those that suit your reading preferences.

And what do authors and publishers want from book reviews? Exposure to as wide an audience as possible? Positive reviews that will influence readers to purchase? Genuine feedback? A chance to connect with readers? An opportunity to collect data? The possibility of being noticed by someone of influence?

Having looked at many sites and blogs, it seems to me that the winners in the online world of connecting readers with books share three attributes: thoughtful, trustworthy information about books, opportunities for dialogue, and a community of like-minded readers.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION follow A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union on August 16, 2016. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

10 Insights on Millennial Readers

Millennial readersA few weeks ago we explored a few facts about boomer readers – so, today we’re looking at millennials to see if their reading habits and preferences differ from other age groups based on surveys done in 2015, 2013 and 2012. Millennials are generally defined as those born from the early 1980s to the early 2000s.

  1. More millennials than any other group read over 30 books a year. 61% in 2012, 52% in 2013 and 58% in 2015. And they have the highest intention to read at that level or more in the future.
  2. More than other age groups, millennials read historical fiction ‘because it’s a great story’ or ‘because it’s the best form of entertainment’.
  3. Types of stories – as a group millennials have less interest in historical fiction series than other age groups. And they are the most likely to choose books with ‘high stakes’.
  4. Millennials are more likely to consider geography as a factor when choosing stories to read. They prefer stories set in Europe or Britain over any other geography.
  5. As for time periods, millennials most preferred stories are from the 13th to 16th centuries, and they have a keener interest in ancient history than other age groups.
  6. When choosing books, price and cover have more influence while author is less important to millennials.
  7. As a group, they are most likely to consult social media before purchasing a book and have the highest interest in adding their voice to the rating of books.
  8. In terms of acquiring and reading books, they are slightly less likely to purchase from bookstores (even though they say they are more like to find books by browsing the bookstore) and more likely to borrow from friends than other groups. They are more likely to ‘read mostly print books’ and least likely to ‘read mostly ebooks’ than others.
  9. 86% use blogs, social media and other online sites for reading recommendations and discussion and are the least likely to check reviews in newspapers and other print media.
  10. Features they value from online sources are: ratings, giveaways, best of lists, an opportunity to comment and connect with other readers, and the ability to track their books.

I’m not particularly surprised by any of these insights and as a general conclusion — now that I’ve looked at boomers and millennials and scanned the age groups several times — I would say that age does not have as big an impact as gender does.

A note about numbers: in the under 30 group, 419 people participated across the three years which is roughly 8% of all participants; 159 in 2015, 202 in 213, and 58 in 2012. It’s impossible for me to assess whether some individuals responded to the survey in more than one year. As with other age groups, a huge percentage are women, which affects some of the results.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION follow A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE is set in WWI France and is available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. Her debut novel, UNRAVELLED: Two wars. Two affairs. One marriage. is also available from these retailers.

Mary can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

Top 10 Posts from Reader surveys


Having conducted and posted about three separate reader surveys, I thought it might be useful to bring together some of the posts that have attracted the most interest.

First, the survey reports themselves from 2015, 2013 and 2012.

Favourite historical fiction authors from 2015, 2013, 2012.

Favourite Reading Oriented Sites where readers go to discover and discuss books

Favourite Historical Fiction conducted for the first time in the 2015 survey

Gender differences played out in many ways – from the 2013 survey Men Have Their Say on Favourite Historical Fiction Authors and Reading Historical Fiction Varies by Gender while from the 2012 survey Historical Fiction Survey – She Says, He Says

Historical Fiction Would be Better If offers a look at what detracts readers from their enjoyment of historical fiction.

Reading Historical Fiction Varies by Country Part I and Part II

A recent look at boomer readers prompted much interest. More broadly there’s this post on Age Makes a Difference.

Historical Fiction Preferences – Publishers vs Readers a look at the eras being published compared with the eras readers prefer

A Reader’s Paradise – 312 reading blogs and sites mentioned in the 2013 survey plus Four Top Book Blogs from the 2012 survey