BookScout app introduced…by traditional publisher
As I’ve written before, I think Amazon should get a lot more social on the e-book side.
Books should be as much a part of our lives as TV shows or songs. That’s going to be a bit controversial to say, I know. For many people, books (certainly some books) are an intimate, private thing. I recently wrote about whether or not it was good that strangers can’t see what you are reading when you are using an EBR (E-Book Reader).
However, in a world in which people freely share personal details that would have previously only been seen in their medical records, there are many folks who want to share what they are reading.
I think part of that is that we have to interact with and through technology so much that we want there to be a human side to it. If you had to sit down to spreadsheets for eight hours in a day (not that spreadsheets can’t be fun) with no possibility of that time including human beings, you’d be much less likely to do it. If you can do a quick e-mail, chat, or even just see strangers on YouTube, it much more closely fits what we Homo sapiens are comfortable doing.
I’ve had those conversations with employers who want to block all access to the internet (and personal phone calls) when employees are working. In my opinion, that’s a huge mistake. If people consider their “personal lives” part of their work lives, and vice versa, they’ll spend a lot more time on work. If you spend half an hour a day at work on family and friends, I can pretty much guarantee you that you will spend more than half an hour a day on work when you are at home. If a company draws a hard and fast line, the employee may not want to spend any time at home on work.
So, if we want to be social while we are doing other things online, I think it’s natural.
Companies can work with that truth, and make book reading (and therefore buying) part of our social lives and vice versa.
Let me give you an example (that some of you will likely reflexively hate).
When I managed a brick and mortar bookstore, and especially when I was a customer in many of them, there would be times when conversations would begin in an aisle. One person might ask another person for advice on making a choice, or maybe say, “Oh, I love that author! Have you tried this one?” I’m sure that lifelong friendships (and romantic relationships) were begun that way.
Of course, you didn’t start taking to someone until you had checked out their body language to see that they would be okay with it.
What if, while you were shopping for a book on Amazon, you had the option to chat with someone else looking at the same (or similar, but that would be more difficult) book at the same time? That person would have to have chosen to be visible. Maybe you would see that there were two hundred people looking at that same book at the same time. Perhaps you could see where they were geographically located, and you might see them making comments (like overhearing them in a store). You could chose to privately or publicly chat with them.
You would see their screen names (like we do in the Amazon forums). If they wanted that to be their real names (I use mine), that’s fine, but it could be something else, which might indicate an interest in common with yours (“PlatypusOfDoomFan42″, “NutsAboutKnitsInMacedonia”).
I think people would spend more time hanging out at Amazon…just as they spent time (sometimes every day) in my brick and mortar bookstore.
Would there be risks? Sure. It’s easier to pretend to be someone else online for nefarious purposes. Might somebody spam you? You bet. It’s the exact same risks we have in the Amazon forums, and there are methods to report “abuse” which could be similarly used.
One way to do deal with that would be to have, as I have recommended, “circles of friends”…maybe “book buddies”? “Kindle Klubs?” that you have previously designated, and only see them.
That’s just one idea.
Random House, which has often led the way among tradpubs (traditional publishers), is releasing an app tomorrow called BookScout.
I think this was the standout quotation for me:
“The app is the culmination of months of work by Random House’s digital marketplace development group.”
See? A tradpub with a “digital marketplace development group”. While I suspect they may not be eating lunch at the same table as editors who have been there for decades I think that’s a sign that some tradpubs will figure out the new market and do just fine.
It’s also important to note that this isn’t just an app about Random House books…it will include discovery for books from other publishers.
That’s another key point for me in business: you don’t have to eliminate the competition if you can grow the overall market. More people reading is good for Random House (as long as it maintains decent marketshare), even if they are sometimes reading books from other people. Social interactivity can increase the penetration of books into our lives…a “rising tide that floats all books”, so to speak.
Will I be using the new Random House app?
Nope…it’s Facebook dependent, and I don’t use Facebook. I have nothing against Facebook (the third largest country in the world by population), it’s just that I have this feeling it would be like taking on another full time job for me.
Amazon could increase discovery among Amazon customers…and all of their customers already are that.
What do you think? Are you going to use the Random House app? Is your reading experience already social enough, thank you very much? Have you ever started a relationship (of any kind) with a stranger from meeting in a bookstore? Should Amazon have their own “bookstore clerks” who are available for live chat on the product pages? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.
Update: thanks to reader and frequent commenter Tom Semple for pointing out an error in this post which has now been corrected.
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.