Millennials, Diversity Big Topics at BookNet Canada’s Annual Tech Forum

Millennials, Diversity Big Topics at BookNet Canada’s Annual Tech Forum

At BookNet Canada’s 10th annual Tech Forum, a full-day event in downtown Toronto which took place on Friday, discussions centered around e-book pricing, Millennials’ book buying habits, and how publishers can use technology to more effectively market diverse books.

Mary Beth Barbour, senior vice-president of research firm Ipsos Reid, led a session called “Keeping Up With Digital Natives,” and offered some insight into the way Canadian Millennials consume media. She stressed that the younger generation is more likely than ever to gravitate towards brands that “stand for something” and “hold true to their values.”

“If you can truly stand behind something, your brand will resonate more deeply with this age group,” said Barbour. “They have a strong desire for culture and authenticity; they’re going to seek that out.”

She also emphasized that because of all the options available to Millennials today, they can feel overwhelmed with choices. To encourage them to choose your product, said Barbour, booksellers should be simplifying and curating options.

Noah Genner, president and CEO of BookNet Canada, continued the analysis of Millennials’ buying habits with data collected by his company in the past year. According to him, Millennials are actually buying more books on average than the older generations — known as Gen Xers, Boomers, and the Silent Generation. Based on BookNet Canada’s survey, 86% of Millennial respondents said they read at least one book in 2015, compared to 81% in the older generations.

And while Millennials spend more time on average comparing prices in stores and online, that group is also willing to spend more on a book. Based on BookNet Canada’s survey, Millennials spent an average of $11.06 for an e-book and $16.77 for a paperback last year, while the older generations spent $8.88 on an e-book and $13.38 on a paperback. Genner adds that Millennials likely place more value in the convenience and searchability of e-books, and therefore are willing to spend more money for better value.

Another speaker at Tech Forum was Kaya Thomas, a student at Dartmouth College who created an app called We Read Too. The app, which Thomas created in 2014, provides a directory of hundreds of children’s and YA books written by authors of color and featuring characters of non-white ethnicities, a resource Thomas noted was severely lacking when she was a child.

“My parents always encouraged me to read, and often they went from bookstore to bookstore trying to find children’s books that featured black girl characters,” Thomas said. “I yearned for stories about other black girls, but often, when I found those stories at the library, they were urban drama fiction with a tale that was tragic. I wanted the same fun, romantic, adventurous stories I’d always been reading, but I wanted them with characters who looked like me.”

Thomas emphasized how important it is for children from minority and marginalized backgrounds, as well as those who are not, to be exposed to books featuring diverse characters. In doing so, she made several calls to action for those working in publishing, a predominantly white industry. She suggested publishers should include metadata about authors’ ethnicity, so these books would be easier to identify; publishers should make a concerted effort to diversity their staff; and books by authors of color should be marketed more heavily, so that they have the opportunity to grow their audience.


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