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Buying Books: A Predictive Equation
May 4, 2011 - 10:15pm

I buy lots of books. All this book buying is strange, as I have a world-class academic library steps away from my door. And if the library doesn't have the book, inter-library loan will get it to me within a couple of days.

In the narcissistic belief that untangling why I do something (like decide to buy a book) might shed light on the book buying decisions of everyone else, I propose the following book buying predictive equation.

Probability = (Professional Reviews + Social Media + Word-of-Mouth) * (eBook Version + Audio Version) * (Known Author + Price)

Professional Reviews: The NYTimes Book Review is the gold standard (I'll look each week), but reviews in the Economist, IHE or other places are hugely influential.

Social Media: Social media is a short-hand for book buzz from places outside of professional media outlets. For me, this mostly means blogs. But maybe Twitter or GoodReads or VisualBookshelf or something else will become important.

Word-of-Mouth: The most powerful predictor for if I'll buy a book is if someone I know provides me with a personal recommendation. If a colleague says "you've got to read this book", I'm very likely to take her up on the offer.

eBook Version: If I can't download a sample chapter for my Kindle, I'm not buying the book.

Audio Version: Most of my reading is done by audiobook, as most of my reading is done while doing something else. My Audible addiction allows me to read while moving the lawn, walking across campus, driving to work and doing the dishes.

Known Author: If I know the author, have read and liked one of her previous books, then I'm much more likely to buy the next book. Same goes if I know the authors work through magazines, newspapers, or social media.

Price: Price matters. I'll buy a new book at the paperback price - under $15 - but not at a traditional hardcover price (over $20). I pay about $10 bucks a book for an Audible audio book (with the Platinum subscription) - maybe a bit more for Kindle books.

I'll pay for books that are in the conversation, that relate somehow (in a very broad sense) to education and technology, and are available in digital and audio format.

It is clear to me that social media and digital books changes how we decide to buy books, and at least for me dramatically increases my likelihood of making book purchases. At the same time, these factors decrease the probability that I'll check a book out of the library.

What about you?

What factors determine your book buying behavior.

What are you reading?


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