Excerpted from The Digital Publishing Dictionary: Discovery

5348706-magnetic-letters-spelling-out-the-word-discovery[1]Discovery is a buzzword right now in digital publishing circles, with many publishers and tech companies trying to solve the “problem” of helping readers find their next book. One thing I have noticed about this word is that it doesn’t always mean quite the same thing when said by different people.

Today I would like to give you an orthogonal view of discovery, presented as a dictionary definition.

Discovery – noun. This word has several meanings that can vary based on usage, speaker, context.

  1. (Reader) The act of finding a new book to read based on recommendations, reading preferences, and other input.
  2. (Publisher) The act of convincing readers to buy books from said publisher. (See Marketing, Bookish)
  3. (Extraneous) The act whereby a 3rd party sells advertising space to legacy publishers, indie pub, and self-pub authors and presents said adverts to readers as book recommendations.
  4. (Retailer) The act of pitching titles to customers in the hopes of getting them to buy more books. (See Marketing)

I have been following the debate surrounding discovery ever since the term was the topic of its own unconference back in February, and during that time I have repeatedly seen it misused as a synonym for marketing and/or advertising. While this is an accepted usage, it still feels inaccurate to me.

I still think that the only valid definition is the first one, but that’s not how I see the word being used.

P.S. If anyone wants to add another definition, comments are open.


Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. Peter Turner6 June, 2013

    I think of discovery as meaning “finding a book that is ‘new to you,’ wasn’t something you were already looking for, or knew that you wanted.” Put another way, discovery is what happens when you browse in traditional bookstore but mimicked in the digital space.

  2. William Ockham6 June, 2013

    I think that the publishers definition is:

    The process of telling non-reading book buyers which books they should buy.

  3. Amazon and Publishers: Tense Exchanges | Digital Book World7 June, 2013

    […] hackathon held last month, HarperCollins has launched its own software development contest.   What Does Discovery Really Mean? (The Digital Reader) Discovery might mean one thing to readers, another to publishers, and a third to third parties who […]

  4. Eric8 June, 2013

    Discovery is more than simply finding, but must include understanding what has been found with the ability to talk about what it is. I receive recommendations all the time but don’t necessarily read all of them, does this mean I discovered the books I didn’t read too? Surely not.

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