Pinning down a novel: characteristics of literary works as perceived by readers

Alenka Šauperl (Department of Library and Information Science and Book Studies, Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana, Ljubljana, Slovenia)

Library Review

ISSN: 0024-2535

Publication date: 13 April 2012



The subject description of novels in library catalogues is traditionally limited to the classification number with no description of the story. On the other hand, enthusiastic readers describe novels by tags or reviews in Web services. The purpose of this paper is to analyse readers' descriptions of novels and suggest an enhancement of the catalogue record which would be useful to the readers.


The original research involved a content analysis of tags and reviews written by users in the online bookstore, the online reader advisory service LibraryThing, and the reading promotion project Primorci beremo. The results were compared to previously published results.


The characteristics that most frequently elicit comments by readers are: the names of the creators and literary characters, geographic names and the titles of works, the time frame in which the story takes place, and the literary genre. Their evaluation of a novel was expressed with an opinion, an analysis, or a professional review. Awards were mentioned, and readers often also expressed their personal experience with the novel. They connected the novel with a sequel or series, with otherwise related novels, movies, etc. Often, pictures of the cover and other factual data were included.

Research limitations/implications

Research was limited to readers' experiences and descriptions of literary works written in prose.

Practical implications

It is suggested that the time frame, genre and awards received should be included in the functional requirements models.


Original research was conducted over a longer period of time. The results were re‐evaluated and compared to previously published results from studies by different researchers.



Šauperl, A. (2012), "Pinning down a novel: characteristics of literary works as perceived by readers", Library Review, Vol. 61 No. 4, pp. 286-303.

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