Right now the progressive talk among publishers centers around pricing, ebooks, gadgets, branding and community/social media (in somewhat loosely connected terms). All important stuff, but we need to focus even more on choosers.
Choosers are people who share and recommends things to others, and they’re at the center of the evolving social web.
They decide what’s what sticks and what flops, where to go, what to read and—let’s not forget—what to buy. If you’ve ever shared anything online, then you’re a chooser, too.
If publishers want to save publishing, they need to start nurturing the choosers of their industry—readers, writers, editors and critics.
Creating the Channel
The platforms already exist, but the channels don’t. Kindles, iPads, Kobos, Nooks are nifty, elegant platforms, but really—they’re just another way of reading (and buying) a book.
Publishers need to create channels over these platforms so niche, book-loving communities can blossom and thrive.
For example, the channel for people who love innovative business books would have a place for Seth Godin readers to congregate over his ideas while allowing Seth Godin himself to directly connect with these readers (and critics, too).
After devouring his latest book, any influential chooser (including Seth himself) could lead the group to the next book or author. In this natural reading ecosystem, good authors and books get rewarded based on the wisdom of choosers and their communities.
Running the Channel
The publisher’s job is to keep channels running smoothly and to collect reader data that will enable them to sell the right books to the right people at the right time.
The editors? It’s their job to serve as stewards of the channel while procuring authors and their works.
If the channel thrives, more books get sold and everyone profits:
- Readers buy books they truly want to read
- Writers sell more books to readers they’re organically connected with
- Publishers can pinpoint their sales using detailed reader data
- Distributors (Amazon, Apple, etc.) get a cut of higher book sales
Facebook is a Threat to Publishing
This discussion isn’t complete without considering the social juggernaut that is Facebook.
The new ‘like’ button, while seemingly small and unassuming, contains the early DNA for the next generation of social choosers, which inevitably affects publishing.
Using the ‘like’ button, Facebook is reaching across multiple channels and allowing people to easily share the things they like. If they narrowed down their business to ebook publishing and integrated ‘like’ buttons into every ebook they produced, imagine the data they would own on all of their readers.
Facebook could then use that data to make book buying the most intuitive and personalized experience ever. Choosers invested in the Facebook platform (many of us already are, deeply) would have no reason to leave.
Yes, this would be a major coup on the publishing industry.
So Let’s Get to Work
But enough of this doomsday scenario. Publishers need to start building channels for choosers.
Remember, the question is not whether iPad this will topple Kindle that, but rather: Can publishers find books for their readers instead of readers for their books?
Photo by Tommy and Georgie.