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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Why People Abandon A Book

One of the hardest challenges we readers' advisors face is convincing a patron to take a book we are suggesting only going off of our word.  Too many patrons have had a bad experience with a book that they thought they would like.  Often, though these books are not suggested by us, the professionals, rather, they get the suggestion from a friend or everyone else is reading it so they figure they will like it.

This later issue is also known as "the curse of the bestseller list." I talked about this at more length in regards to the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon last year. Click through if you want more explanation on that issue.

Now there are 2 kinds of readers in these instances: those who abandon books they don't like and those who read the entire thing no matter how much they hate it.  I used to be a read no matter what kind of girl, but have learned that there is no shame in abandoning.  Life is short and there are too many GREAT books to waste my time on ones I do not like (that is unless I have to read it for work, but in that case, I am being paid to read it, so I can't complain there).

As I have made the transition to a reader who is able to abandon a book, I have also been more vocal with patrons about this option.  As I book talk a perspective title to a patron, I often say-- give it a try; start it and if it is not working for you close it up and return it.  To make it seem even less of a problem, I also remind patrons that we don't check to see if you've actually read the books we give you. We have no way to know, so don't worry about it.  Close it up and come back to get a new one.  Then I wave my arms across the stacks and remind them of how many other books we have. It has proved very effective.

Of course, when they really think about it,  people know we do not check to see if they've read the books they check out, but a small part of them are worried about returning unread books. Openly admitting that you don't finish books all the time and/or reminding them that we don't know, or for that matter, care if they finish the books we give them, takes a lot of pressure off the RA transaction.

I do make sure, however, to let my patrons know that my ultimate goal is to find them the right read for them. This is why I try to make them take at least 2 books (ideally 3) so there is room for one to be abandoned without a return trip to the library immediately.

This has worked well for me over the years, but one question has often plagues me-- Why do people abandoned a book?  I know why I do, I know why a few other specific patrons have, but getting some more general data about the different reasons why people give up on a book will help me to anticipate a possible abandonment in my patrons.  It will also help me to better place the right book in a patron's hand as this information will give me more questions to help weed out a "bad" suggestion.

Thankfully Goodreads was also concerned with this question and they surveyed their users on just this issue.  The result is an infographic explaining which books are most abandoned and why people give up on certain books.  Click here for the original (that is easier to zoom in on) or see the embedded infographic below.

This is fun, yes, but think about what I have said about using this information to better serve your patrons too.

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