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If you love data, books and art then read on...

Recently, we decided to set up an advanced reading group. This is to be a group of people who in return for free ebooks, discounted signed copies and a Hobeck mug will provide us with invaluable feedback and reviews of our publications. Reader feedback is of vital importance to publishers and readers. We want to publish what people want to read. I don’t just want Hobeck to publish what we think readers want, or what our writers think readers want. We want to know what they actually want.

We called this group the Hobeck Advanced Readers Team, which conveniently abbreviates to HART. We were overwhelmed by the response we got to our call to members of the team. Within 24 hours of asking for interest, we had reached our capacity. We had our team. Hurrah!

We decided to start the ball rolling last week by asking the HART members a few questions about their reading habits. As well as having an MA in fine art and a BA in the same, I also have a degree in economics. Part of that degree involved learning how to create and analyse statistics. Although I have forgotten most of my economics degree (except the Philips Curve which sticks with me for some reason), I have retained a love of data from that time.

It may sound a bit bizarre but I think that art and data are closely linked. There is art in data and data can be presented in an artful way. So to me it makes sense that as an artist, I love data.

Two days after asking the HART members to complete my very basic survey on reading I decided to take a look at the results and the results are fascinating and, in some respects, not as I expected.

Our first question was: what genres do you read? The most frequent answer came out as crime / thriller. No surprises there, we are a publisher of crime and thrillers so naturally we attract those readers. However, other answers included history, autobiographies, romance, sci-fi and nature. People like to read a lot of stuff different it seems. Wonderful. So do I.

Second question: how many books do you read a month? Answer: a lot. Most people in HART read between five and ten books a month. I aspire to be in that category. I have to read a lot for work so at the moment it probably is at least five a month.

Next question: what is your favourite book so far of the year 2020? We had six people declare books by Hobeck author Robert Daws (thank you). Two people mentioned Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams which I am currently listening to on audio. I am loving this book. Queenie is so misunderstood by everyone in her life, including herself. It is a warm, funny, sad and moving book. One person mentioned the book I am reading at the moment: The Flat Share by Beth O’Leary – a sweet and gentle tale. One respondent has read over 100 books in 2020. I bow in awe to you, dear HART member!

Question four asked respondents to express a preference for physical book, audio, ebook or a mixture. The most popular response was ‘mixture’ with ‘physical book’ coming in second. We like our books to be solid it seems. I do. Despite being a publisher of ebooks first, physical books second, I always buy physical books. I love them. Cliched though it may sound, they smell so good.

The fifth question asked for a favourite author. This is such a difficult question, for which I apologise. Answers include the following: Robert Daws (he features a few times), Emily Organ, James Patterson, Lee Child (appears twice), Adam Croft, Alexander McCall Smith, Rob Sinclair, Robert Harris, Agatha Christie (appears three times), JoJo Moyes (she has two mentions) and Jane Austen. My answer would be: Haruki Murakami.

I wanted to know also where people like to read so that informed the sixth question. So many of the HARTs are bedtime readers. I have my pink chair which sits in our kitchen I read while cooking (burning) dinner. Many are also sofa and garden readers. One person has a reading room. Oh how I envy you!

My last question was about what influences the decision to purchase a book. Being a visual person, and a lover of data, I will present the answers here visually rather than summarise (see below).

Surprised? I was. Price? Who cares? Publishers do. They assume that price is hugely important.

It seems not for readers out there. For me, the top answer would be word of mouth with price down there at the bottom. I am much more likely to read a book that you have recommended to me than I am if I have seen it appear on Facebook, on Amazon, or if it has good reviews. Price doesn’t influence me at all.

So, HART members, thank you. Thank you for allowing me into your reading lives, even just a little bit of it. Thank you for your time and your kindness. You have made a data geek very happy today. I am now going to down tools and sit on the Hobeck pink chair and read The Flat Share – as that is my favourite spot for reading.

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