Putting books in readers’ hands – some half-baked ideas
At some stage, I’m hoping to tease out some ideas I have about potential innovations in publishing, but in the meantime, I thought I’d list some things that, as a reader, I’d love the industry to explore.
These are in no particular order…
Booksellers curating self-published print books
While the explosion in self-publishing provides readers with more choices, it’s been mostly in the ebook space. This is fine for those who read ebooks, but readers who prefer print are left out. With on-demand printing becoming cheaper by the day, I’d love to see retail bookshops being advocates for self-published—preferably local—authors whose work would appeal to the shop’s clientele.
Libraries and bookshops sharing space
As bookshops host more and more author appearances, book clubs and other events promoting reading culture, I think they start overlapping with library services. I don’t think borrowing books and buying books are incompatible at all. I’m curious to know how the Readings shop at the State Library of Victoria is doing.
Publishing imprints for readers
The only real market I’ve seen this in is romance—admittedly, I don’t know much about other markets. Outside of romance, when I pick up a book, the publisher and the imprint don’t even warrant a glance. Better defined imprints—and by that I mean defined so that readers understand the definition—help me find books I might like and avoid those I know I won’t. Some people would argue that they limit audiences, but most people I know read across genres and markets, so I’ve yet to be convinced by that argument. If it’s a really good book in an I’ll-never-read-their-stuff imprint, I’ll eventually be persuaded to read it by a friend who knows what I like. Everyone wins.
Authors self-publishing back lists in print
I know this may cost a lot for the reader, but if it’s on-demand printing and the only cost to the author is the set-up of the book file, then it can’t hurt. When I love a book so much I want to cuddle it to bed, I’d really prefer a print copy that I can look at and admire on my bookshelf. One caveat, though: If you’re going to sell me an expensive print book, the cover should be decent.
Bookshops with kiosks for customers to buy books online
It’s not a secret that many readers browse at a bookshop only to buy the book from Amazon or The Book Depository before they’re even out the door. Instead of railing against it, I’d like to see more bookshops trying to see if it might work for them. Earn the affiliate commission! Sure, it’s not the same as selling it yourself, but at least you got something out of it. I’m thinking bookshops could provide add-on services for a small fee—for example, enabling readers to pay for the books at the register (while the bookshop buys it online on their behalf), or providing a collection service for book deliveries.
Why do bookshops have to be so big? I’d love to see smaller bookshops that get to know their local reading community very closely and cater for their needs and preferences. The shop might co-exist with a complementary shop. Homewares, food and liquor, fashion—there are so many possibilities. Scrumptious high tea and books—surely there’s a market for that!
Books at transit areas
The other place I’d love to see small, customer-sensitive book providers is near transit areas, like train stations and bus stops. By book provider I mean tiny bookshops or satellite libraries or book vending machines or even a person on a bicycle carrying a basket of books! Even better would be a way to pre-pay for a book online and then pick it up at a specified time and place.
What are your ideas for the future of publishing, book buying and reading culture? More often than not these types of discussions are initiated by people within in industry, so I’d love to hear more ideas from readers.
(That said, industry folk are definitely welcome, too! If any of these ideas are unworkable, I’d love to know why.)
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