I recently posted this graphic on my Facebook Page and asked readers about their To-Be-Read (TBR) Piles.
At the time I posted, I had about 5 or 6 books waiting for me to read (both on Audible and on my shelf). I’m always somewhat giddy when I have a stack of really good books awaiting me, books I know I’ll enjoy, books I can’t wait to get to. Don’t you agree there’s something pleasurable in knowing when you finish one book there’s another delicious book waiting?
There were a handful of readers who had TBR piles similar to mine—8 books or perhaps 12.
However, the majority of readers said that “All is Lost” in regards to their TBR piles.
Here’s are just a few comments taken from my Facebook Page:
“My to-read list on Goodreads is 1,386. Yeah, all is lost…”
“Mine is in the hundreds.”
“Just counted a couple nights ago and I have over 100 unread books on my shelves. And don’t even get me started on kindle books!”
“All is lost! It just keeps growing…I think I add books twice as fast as I read them, and I read a lot!”
“I have a TBR room, so. . .”
I enjoyed reading all the comments and expected book lovers to have some fun with their answers. But, I didn’t expect such enormous TBR piles!
As I got to thinking about the responses, I realized that the “never-ending TBR pile” is a fairly new phenomenon. With the boom of the digital age, we have a plethora of books and authors to choose from right at our fingertips.
The All-Is-Lost TBR pile wasn’t always the case. When I was growing up, I could count on one hand the number of Christian fiction writers. I read mostly Grace Livingstone Hill books until Janette Oke came onto the scene.
What is the effect of such gigantic TBR piles for readers and writers alike? Here are a few of my thoughts. Be sure to chime in with yours!
The effect of large TBR piles on readers:
We’re certainly blessed to have so many books available (virtually every genre one can imagine and then some!) and in a variety of formats (print, ebook, audio). Although brick and mortar bookstores have diminished, books are more accessible than ever before. Last week in just one day, I downloaded audio books from Audible, placed an order with thriftbooks.com for children’s books for my church library, and also bought books from Christianbook.com.
Such variety and easy access lends itself to the trend of growing TBR piles. But what about the downside to insurmountable TBR piles?
With millions of books and authors now available, I’m often overwhelmed with my choices and wonder how I can know for sure the book is good and that I’ll enjoy it. Even though I read reviews before making purchases, sometimes I still end up disappointed or frustrated. My “bad” experiences tend to push me to stick closer to authors with a “proven track-record” making me less willing to try new authors.
So while I may add to my TBR pile (especially with free or inexpensive books), I gravitate toward (and prioritize when short on time) the authors I like, and I often don’t touch my TBR pile when it’s burgeoning with less familiar or less popular authors.
The effect of large TBR piles on authors:
The large TBR piles can be an encouragement to writers every bit as much as they are to readers. The piles let authors know that the publishing industry is still important. And the piles let writers know that readers are still purchasing and devouring books.
But to be honest, the large TBR piles can also be a little discouraging as it means that with the tons of books available, authors are having a harder time with discoverability. And even when authors get discovered and even if they’re really good writers, it’s increasingly difficult to develop a loyal fan base willing to buy future books.
With so many books available, readers are splitting their attention and devotion so that authors are getting smaller and smaller pieces of the publishing pie.
I recently read an insightful article by Jane Friedman titled, “Publishing Industry Status Report: Important Stories for Authors in 2017.” Friedman shares a number of statistics regarding the state of the publishing industry. While she indicates that print sales are up, she also says: Traditional publishers are experiencing strong backlist sales and soft frontlist sales. Frontlist sales are new titles—so publishers are experiencing trouble getting new titles to “break out.”
In other words, new releases aren’t getting the same kind of sales that they used to. Is that partly because readers have so many other books in their TBR piles (including backlist books) that they don’t have the same incentive anymore to run out and purchase new books?
While I have much more to say on this topic, I’ll stop for today and open up the floor to hear your thoughts.
What do you think? What effect do such large TBR piles have on YOU?