On Being a Greedy Reader

Challenge yourself to explore unfamiliar topics.

November 18, 2013

The anticipation was palpable. Curiosity hung thickly in the air. Giddy conversation filled the room.

It was “title pick” night for my book club, “The Greedy Readers.” In November each member suggests books for the upcoming year, and we take turns delivering enthusiastic pitches in hopes the group selects our highly-researched tomes.

Voting ensues. Cheers erupt. Hopes are dashed.

It’s a big night for the bibliophiles of “The Greedy Readers,” who profess to devour it all. Still, members typically recommend their favorite genres. Jill likes the classics. Edith prefers psychological thrillers, while Beth fancies biographies.

Book clubs entice us to read outside our comfort zones. Consequently, I am now quite taken with real-life survival and adventure tales. I expanded my horizons and shared another’s interest.

Variety makes for great discussion, even with disagreement on favorites.

If you are a marketing director, do you venture outside Advertising Age? Or, if you work in information technology, do you limit your exposure to Computerworld?

As you read this week’s findings, challenge yourself to explore less familiar topics. You might appreciate awareness of lending trends even though you work in member service, or find consumer demographics are impactful despite your compliance duties.

‘My best friend is the man who’ll get me a book I haven’t read.’—Abraham Lincoln

Let’s open the book regarding the imminent holiday shopping season…

More Americans are Hoarding Despite Holiday Shopping,” says  “Almost 72% of Americans are holding back on spending,” according to a new report, due to stalled incomes (32%) and economic worries (20%), although 27% indicate they do not plan to cut expenditures.

Meanwhile, “More shoppers will be spending more on their holiday shopping this year… but spending is expected lower compared to prior years,” says an interesting Accenture study, “2013 US Holiday Shopping Survey Results.” This detailed report examines consumer spending this season and provides a glimpse into online and in-store spending.

Some interesting findings:

A noteworthy takeaway: When asked to select a word that best described the type of spending they would do this holiday season, consumers most often chose “sensible,” and 52% say they will purchase gifts with cash set aside for that purpose.

“Not everyone is an early bird,” says “Holiday Season 2013: How and When Consumers Plan to Shop.” Survey data here indicates 29% will not start shopping until after Thanksgiving, and “another 11.7%—including 17.3% of men—admit they will probably wait until the last minute.”

Online shopping is easy and convenient, but “make way for mobile,” says the article, revealing that:

Knowing technology affects the buying experience, let’s see how “How Shoppers Use Mobile Phones in Stores.”

“Just under one-third of US shoppers… use their smartphones when shopping in brick-and-mortar stores,” says a recent study. In-store use allows messaging and emailing (84%), use of social networks (64%), price comparisons (71%), and reviews (51%).

Further, 48% of shoppers “would be receptive to receiving messages and promotions to their phone based on their browsing experience in the store, assuming they can opt-in.”

What do these shopping and spending trends reveal about consumer sentiments regarding our economy and technology? Might you capitalize on these opinions and behaviors in your outreach during the holiday season?

‘Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.’—Margaret Fuller

The well-read are aware of trends influencing the financial services industry and will successfully lead their organizations. Are you in the know?

Banks, Listen Up: Most Customers are Talking about You,” says Gallup.

Technology is a player as consumers text, tweet, and chat about their financial institutions, but “it turns out that the old fashioned face-to-face conversation is still how most information about banks is shared.”

In fact, 80% of people will talk about their banks in person, while only 1% will tweet, 2% use Facebook, and 2% will resort to an online blog post.

It is important to take note, because “When customers feel positive about their bank, they can become powerful de facto marketing tools. And 71% of the time, customers who are talking or writing… are not merely passing on information they heard elsewhere, but… add their own perspective.”

When the consumer is the focal point, talks with friends and family will allow them to say good things about their institution.

Unfortunately, “Financial Firms Cutting Thousands of Jobs,” notes USA Today. To blame? A slow economy, regulatory requirements, and increased use of online and mobile banking. Further complications include rising interest rates and declining mortgage business.

“The sector announced 49,000 layoffs the first nine months of 2013” and, “In September, financial companies lost 7,200 jobs after shedding 5,900 the previous month.”

Do these trends affect your credit union?

Let’s provide a happy ending to this week’s story. “How’s Life? 2013 Measuring Well-Being” is a compelling study that examines “people’s material living conditions and quality of life across the population,” and considers influence of the economic crisis.

In-depth examination of many variables—income, housing, environmental issues—makes for a gripping page turner.  In sum, the “area as a whole made considerable progress in many well-being areas… however this trend does not hold for some well-being dimensions (e.g. jobs and electoral participation)… There remain large differences in well-being outcomes across the population.”

We each have favorite books or specific areas of interest. Self-indulgence in reading choices can help us perfect skills and grow expertise, but exploration of the unknown will make us well-informed and capable of understanding needs and interests of those around us.

This ability to relate will help us collaborate, and we might learn something about ourselves in the process.

Let’s put newfound knowledge to use. Our readings can lead to action, change, reflection, and betterment.

Per John Locke, “Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge; it is thinking that makes what we read ours.”






Lora Bray is a research librarian at CUNA.