The new best book discovery tool? Online video

The new best book discovery tool? Online video

When you're looking for a book to read, there are a number of things you can do. Wander the stacks in your local library. Peruse displays in a shop. Over the years, digital media has added several new options to the list. Now you can discover your next must-read online, with a personalized recommendation from Amazon, a Twitter-sourced email digest from BookVibe, or a user review on Goodreads.

The Visual Web is boosting interest in another approach. Video has long held a place in book discovery services, but lately it's been pushed to the fore as consumers display a preference for video content. Some 90 per cent of us watch online videos, and studies show those who see a video of a product are twice as likely to make a purchase. It stands to reason that video can influence book buyers too, so in an effort to entice audiences publishers are pushing the limits of what video can do.

In March, Simon & Schuster launched Off the Shelf, a book discovery site and daily email newsletter that includes both fiction and non-fiction titles reviewed by S&S editors and other special guests. Off the Shelf lets users create online reading lists, but the highlight is its "What Are You Reading?" video series. Available on the site as well as YouTube, the videos feature authors as they share what they're currently reading, or recommend a book they've loved.

Like movie trailers, book trailers represent an ideal way to get to know a novel, and publishers and authors are getting more creative with their trailer strategies. Some examples of this can be found in Book Riot's online archive, which encompasses books by such authors as Margaret Atwood, Andrew Pyper, and Lemony Snicket. With visual cues, special effects, and music, the videos can evoke a book's atmosphere and give the reader a sense of what kind of mood to expect.

While book trailers have traditionally offered insight into the nature of a book's contents, they can also be highly entertaining and even act as bonus content or an extension of the book itself. Witness the trailer for One More Thing, a collection of short stories by comedian, writer, and "The Office" actor B. J. Novak.

Authors are taking the concept of exclusive content even further by creating clips that give readers a behind-the-scenes glimpse at how their books were born. On his Facebook page, fantasy author Alex Bledsoe recently offered fans a video tour of the actual locations that inspired the fictional ones in his collection of short stories.

Video is useful for getting a better read on authors, too. Since last summer YA author John Green has been posting videos related to the upcoming film adaptation of his book, The Fault in Our Stars. In them he visits the set, chats with the actors, and, more recently, takes viewers along for the ride as he participates in the movie's promotional tour. The videos can be found on his author site, as well as his YouTube channel.

With book-related videos, words and pictures unite to engage the would-be reader. Expect a lot more video content from publishers and authors in the months to come.

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