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firstname.lastname@example.org (Betty Harvey) writes:
>> Theories are good, but data is better. For example, has anyone
>> (O'Reilly or others) surveyed purchasers -- or prospetive purchasers
>> -- to find out what they are looking for?
>I think that it would be difficult for O'Reilly (or any other
>publisher) to provide this information because they usually don't
>interface with the end customer. They sell books through retailers.
>Companies, such as Borders, don't gaither that information. I have
>lots of O'Reilly books and don't remember a single time that I have
>interfaced with them.
It's very difficult, yes. What surveyish data I have (which sadly I
cannot share) comes from self-selected readers, through things like
XML.com surveys, reader registration cards, email, and reviews of our
existing titles. A lot of customers stay quiet, and, especially in the
consumer end, might only buy one book in any event. "Prospective
purchasers" are tough to find. Data from the self-selected folks is
still helpful, though it has some limits.
The 'real data' we have - our own sales figures, Bookscan data, and
Amazon rankings (sadly, I don't know the correlation between rank and
sales, or even if there is one) - is all "rear-view mirror" information.
It's helpful for identifying general trends ("XML is down, Photoshop is
up") but not much good for identifying the next exciting surprise in
To help on that end of things, you'll find computer book editors reading
magazines and sites, lurking (and sometimes participating) in mailing
lists, newgroups, and conferences, and even sometimes haunting the
computer book sections of stores. Figuring out what questions people
are asking is really critical.
My results lack statistical significance, certainly, but then I've
always been fond of less structured forms of data. ;-)