Dispatches from the Digital Revolution

Social reading and…social publishing?

As we all know, reading is one of those activities that wears two masks: On the one hand, reading can be an intensely personal and private experience; on the other, it as a tool that enables us to connect with others, share ideas, and form social bonds.

And while we spend a lot of time talking about different discoverability solutions that link technology with books and intensify the social experience, the fact is, reading has always been somewhat social, anyway. We crave opportunities to connect with others in conversations, book clubs, etc. to digest and process ideas and concepts, exchange opinions, or even just celebrate great stories.

So, it’s not such a big surprise that the link between social media and books is so appealing to new startups, authors, publishers, and readers alike. However, the accelerated rate at which technology and social networks develop keeps this space active, exciting, and perhaps unsettling to those who view reading as more of an individualized, personal activity. But what does the future hold?

Really, the possibilities are endless. We’ve seen experiments like BookRx designed to scan the tweets and hashtags of a Twitter handle and spit back reading recommendations. We have sites like Small Demons that enables users to create storyboards that link books based on mentions of a particular person, place, or thing. Libboo offers platforms for readers to create buzz for books through social media and the chance to earn rewards. There are all sorts of experimental efforts going on to explore the link between the social media, online technologies, and books.

(Of course, the real question is which of all these sites will emerge from the social media battlegrounds alive.)


But social media and online tools are not just limited to readers; many are experimenting with using community-driven tools as publishing alternatives. For instance, some authors choose to try their luck with crowdsourced funds via Kickstarter.

Even Macmillan is experimenting in this space with a crowdsourced teen romance imprint, Swoon Reads, due to launch this spring. As written on the site’s homepage:

SW♥♥N Reads will make it easy for writers to submit their manuscripts online, directly to the SW♥♥N Reads publishing community. There, the community will be able to read, rate, and comment on the submissions. The highest-rated manuscripts will be read by the SW♥♥N publishing team. Then, those submissions considered most SW♥♥N-worthy will be published in both print and e-book formats.

Given the target audience and genre, this makes sense. And it’s smart for publishers to start playing in this space, because if they don’t, you can bet someone else surely will. Personally, I think it’s also a pretty bold move, because it redefines the role of publisher.

The social, hyper-community driven aspects of reading will of course not be for every reader or for every genre. But it’s an important area to explore, particularly when everything is trending toward social. (Just look at what’s happening with social TV.)

The most successful solutions out there have a good understanding of where their communities live and how people like to connect, and for that reason, social reading will always be a bit of a moving target. And, as Lana wrote in a previous Appazoogle post on social media, there are both positives and negatives to a lot of these tools, and everyone is still figuring out how to make these tools work effectively.

So what do you envision the future to look like? Would you like to see more publishers do more in the social reading and publishing space?


This entry was posted on January 3, 2013 by in Culture and tagged , , , , , , .

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