Personal Reading Consultants

Personal Reading Consultants

It happened again. :)

I thought I had come up with something new, and it turns out it already exists…although, in this case, in quite a different form (that’s not unusual).

I was thinking the other day about just how many books (and other reading material) are available to people.

Right now, just in the USA Kindle store, there are 1,882,850 results under e-books.

How do you choose?

Well, although I consider myself an eclectic reader, not all of these books are going to appeal equally to me.

Step one, I could eliminate any book that blocks text-to-speech access…I just don’t buy those. That’s not going to be all that many, though…I’d be surprised if it’s 20,000 altogether.

That would still leave me with more than 1,850,000.

Step two, we could take out books I already own (although I might re-read some sometimes, it’s not common for me). Figuring both paperbooks and e-books, again, that’s probably not more than 20,000. I may have read more than that over my life, but that’s not the same as owning them.

Still not much of a reduction.

There are topics which might not appeal to me, like certain hobbies interesting. I can’t say I wouldn’t find a book on…1930s hockey players or some kind of actuarial formulae interesting, but they wouldn’t be high on my list.

Oh, we could reasonably eliminate books in languages I don’t read! That would help.

As a vegetarian, I’m also not going to be interested in books on preparing meat dishes…although I do see that on TV a lot as we watch cooking competition shows.

Once we got all of those out of the way, there are still going to be much more than a million books to consider.

Let’s say I spend on average ten seconds evaluating the appeal of a book. Hmm…10,000,000 seconds comes out to something like 115 days (non-stop, no sleep), I think. Of course, during that period, more books are being published (we can figure something like a 1,000 a day to the USA Kindle store).

So far, this is all just very broad strokes…it’s eliminating books I wouldn’t want to read, but it isn’t finding books I would find exceptionally good.

That got me thinking about the publishers’ representatives that would come to the brick-and-mortar bookstore I managed.

Somebody would come in, cull out the books that weren’t selling well, and suggest more for us to buy.

It would, of course, be up to me to finally say yay or nay, but the recommendations were quite valuable.

What if there were people who did that for individuals?

You would pay someone to make book recommendations to you on a regular basis.

I think there might be a real opportunity there.

It’s not just about saving a hundred dollars a month on books (after all, you can “return” any Kindle store book within seven days of purchase for a refund, so money isn’t really a risk).

It’s about saving time.

Time is a super valuable commodity.

I remember having a conversation with somebody years ago about how truck commercials had changed.

They had been largely about the utility of the truck, or the sexiness. You’d see the wheels spinning as it towed a dinosaur out of a ditch or something, or the back of the truck would be full of “beautiful people” in swimsuits going to the beach.

Then, it started to be that you would just see the truck parked on top of mountain.

It didn’t even have to move during the commercial.

The owner would, presumably, just be kicked back, doing nothing (maybe reading, but they wouldn’t show you that…”brains” and pickup trucks? Not a classic combination for advertisers).

The suggestion was that owning the truck would give you leisure time away from it all.

I always finish a book I start reading (even though some are a slog). I have people say to me, “Who has time to read bad books?”

Picture this.

You pay a consultant, say, $50 a month. That person Skypes or calls you once a month, and talks with you for maybe five minutes.

They recommend books to you.

You personally.

Based on what they know about you…maybe through surveys first (like a dating site for books), then through getting to know you.

You love almost every book they recommend to you.

Would that be worth it?

If you had a lot of money and your time was really valuable, it certainly might be. Maybe it would be business books for a CEO…or just novels for a busy person.

I do think this could work.

There could also be cut-rate versions, where you met in a group (a Google hangout, perhaps).

That person could also (with permission of clients) announce (and make available for purchase) books that they have recommended. Would people want to read the same books that, say, Beyoncé was reading, or Nate Silver, or Joss Whedon? Yes, I think they might.

I don’t think this would likely be a business that would make you rich, but I think people could make a living at it.

If they were good, or course.

If they weren’t good, the relationship would end in a hot second…or at least, they wouldn’t pay again next month.

That’s one of the things that would make this much better than reviews in magazines. It’s not just that the recommendation is specifically for you…it’s that, if you don’t like the recommendation, it has a direct impact on the person making the recommendation. The money flow depends on being right.

Let’s take a quick look at the economics.

I’m going to say you can do four client contacts an hour, and you do that six and a half hours a day (I’m giving you a lunch and breaks), and you do that four days a week (you need one day just for research).

Twenty-six clients a day, let’s go with 17 days in a month, so that’s 442 clients (with once a month calls).

442*50=$22,100 a month.

Hey, that’s a pretty nice living!

Of course, finding 442 people who would pay you $50 a month would be a huge challenge.

Still, if you find…100 people who pay you $10 a month, that’s $12,000 a year. That could make a decent side salary.

That doesn’t count having a website and making peripheral sales that way.

Do I think I’d be good at this?

Yes, I’d probably be pretty good. Having been a bookstore manager would help…and that’s one group of people that I could see making this work.

I mentioned that when I looked up the term I was going to use (“Personal Reading Consultant”), I found something that was already in use.

It’s used by libraries for librarians that recommend books:

Library Developments article

It’s in place in several libraries. You give them a list of books (or perhaps movies and TV shows, as the article explains) and a librarian recommends books for you.

That’s not really a proof of concept for my idea, since you don’t pay for the service (directly) or buy the books.

Of course, with mine, the books recommended could be free sometimes, although I think the Personal Reading Consultant could work some things where they got referral fees. My Significant Other pointed out that it might also get you press releases and such from publishers, if you were a known, successful…hm, I need a new term.

“Personal Reading Advisor”? Already being used (although it isn’t actually personal, the way I mean it.

“Royal Book Taster”? ;) That one’s not being used, but doesn’t really fit.

I’ll think about that more, but I hope this idea helps some of you out there. If it starts you on a new path, I’d love to hear about it. If you have reasons why this wouldn’t work, feel free to say so. I do think it would be successful for a small minority of people who tried it…like being a tailor, or…a personal chef or something. A lot more people would think they could do it than actually could, and there would certainly be luck involved. Do you think social media can fill this need for most people…at no expense? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

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13 Responses to “Personal Reading Consultants”

  1. alan Says:

    BUFO,
    i wonder if goodreads.com and similar sites are useful. i know one person who finds goodreads great .see article i nyt:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/13/books/goodreadscom-is-growing-as-a-popular-book-site.html

    cheers,
    alan

  2. danny63 Says:

    I just signed up for your blog this morning and was delighted to receive this entry this afternoon. Very interesting post. I have to admit I’m more of a browser than a reader. My favorite author is Montaigne, but I’ve never read him all the way through. Just recently retired so hope to get around to a few of those “great books” that are highly so recommended by Dr. Adler and so many other worthies.

    In other news, I was going to try to write you at your About blog, but couldn’t figure it out. Had some interesting mail from Create Space regarding a question I had about formatting. Would love for you to look at it and see if it’s clear to you as it isn’t to me. Don’t mind it being public, but didn’t know if you would want something like that cluttering up your fine blog.. .

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, danny63!

      You can comment on any article (including the About), and just tell me you’d like it to be kept private, if that’s the case. I review every comment before it appears. I don’t think there’s a problem with including the content of that CreateSpace e-mail, if you like, and I think others might be interested.

      • danny63 Says:

        I’ll post copy/paste of CreateSpace letter. I’m not sure they answered my question, which was would my book include a linked table of contents. . It seemed a little fuzzy to me. My print book does include a table of contents.

        Thanks for allowing me to air this!

        Hello Danny,

        Thank you for inquiring about your Kindle Ready Conversion for Hidalgo ( 3996494 ). As you have provided a table of contents in your paperback file, we will recreate it is using logical links to best assist the reader.

        Please let us know if you have any other questions.

        Best Regards,
        Your Conversion Team
        Services and Support
        http://www.createspace.com
        P: 866-749-7536

        How’s My Driving?

        Did this answer appropriately address your question(s)?

        If Yes; send an email to this address: projectteam6feedback00@createspace.com
        1 – Excellent – (explanation optional)
        2 – Good – (explanation optional)

        If No; send an email to this address: projectteam6feedback01@createspace.com
        3 – Unsatisfactory (please explain)

        Service question about “Hidalgo”
        Sent on Feb 16 2013

        Will my book have a linked table of contents?

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, danny63!

        I agree, that’s a bit ambiguous, but since they say “links”, I would assume that it will have what is commonly called an ATOC (Active Table of Contents).

        I checked the sample of another CreateSpace novel for you, and it did have an ATOC.

        You could always ask them for a clarification…I’d use the “Active Table of Contents” term.

  3. danny63 Says:

    Thanks! I will ask for clarification and will indeed use the “Active Table of Contents” term. Thanks for letting me post this!

    • danny63 Says:

      Haven’t heard back from CreateSpace, but I thought you might like to read a little summary of my self-publishing adventures.

      Do you have a book in you?

      Apparently not. I began writing as a boy of 60, but soon discovered writer’s block. I wanted to write short, funny pieces. My heroes were short-piece writers. I imitated Robert Benchley, James Thurber, Will Cuppy, Dave Barry, Patrick McManus, and Calvin Trillin. I wrote around 60 pieces, most of which were published in local newspaper. Also had a few pieces published at a couple of online sites.

      In a fit of whimsy, I dived into Lulu publishing. Actually self published two little paperbacks, both collections of same material, one being longer than the other, as I couldn’t decide whether to publish a sort of autobiography or a tome that could have been titled My Almost Complete Works.

      These print ventures sold around 11 copies total. Last year I took another flier: jumped off the Kindle self-publishing cliff. Crashed and burned, as did not have technical expertise for digital publishing. Published a collection rife with errors, such all footnotes appearing on last two pages of book, miles away from their original context.

      The Kindle edition listed at the absurdly low price of $3.00 elicited my favorite fan mail: a woman wrote me the cheery news that she would “probably” buy my book. Probably? $3.00 was a major purchase for her?

      I sold three copies of Kindle book. Flush with such success, I thought to delete it and make fresh start. After lying down with wet washcloth over my face, I gave that notion up. My book (s) are still out there, but luckily don’t sell, thus saving me much embarrassment.

    • danny63 Says:

      Got CreateSpace e-mail just now. Here’s a copy/paste:

      “When we convert your paperback book to a Kindle file, the Kindle file will be complete with an active table of contents. Each chapter name will be an active link that will direct readers to the first page of that chapter. When on a chapter title page, a reader can click the name of the chapter to jump back to the able of contents”.

      It will have ATOC–that answers my question. I do fnd that last sentence a little mysterious. I tried it out on a couple of books– and it didn’t seem to work. Just call me Mr. Low-Tech.

      Thanks for your help with this!

  4. Angela Says:

    Regarding reading consultants:
    The Pixel Of Ink Facebook page and website (pixelofink.com) somewhat help readers in he way you spoke of. Pixel of Ink finds kindle books on sale (and free), and culls through to find the “good ones,” then lists those on the website. They also have an email subscription service. (That’s how I personally like to get the list.)
    What is more beneficial is that the owner of Pixel of Ink also has spinoffs, so to speak: Inspired Reads for books with a Christian theme, and Cheap Romance. The owner also adds at least one Kids Pick to the Pixel of Ink list each day.

    Instead of searching amazon for books, I personally depend on these quick hit lists (with genre and a plot summary) to choose my next kindle buys. I rarely go searching through amazon.com because it just takes too long.

    I don’t own, not am I in any way affiliated with, pixel of ink or related sites. I just enjoy the benefits. And it’s FREE. :)

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Angela!

      Certainly, blogs (and other review sources) like Pixel of Ink are useful. They do, however, vary from what I’m suggesting in my post in a couple of important ways.

      One is that they aren’t personalized in the way I imagine. I would want to look forward to my five or ten minute chat with somebody who would recommend a book that most people would hate, but I would love. ;) That’s definitely part of what would make this work: not just the end result of getting books you enjoy with lower investment in time and energy, but the exchange with the consultant. You can think of that a bit like going to a hairdresser. Even if there was a machine that could perfectly cut your hair at home exactly the way you wanted, there are people (with more disposable income, perhaps) who would still prefer to go to “their” hairdresser.

      The other big thing is that, as you point out, getting information from Pixel of Ink can be free.

      http://www.pixelofink.com/

      I’m seeing this, in part, as a business opportunity. You can make money on things that are free to your “customer” (through advertising and referral fees, for example). There are a number of things which look like ads at the Pixel of Ink site, which is probably part of how they can afford to do the blog. The relationship with a personal consultant would feel different from that, and some people would pay for it, in my opinion.

  5. Edward Boyhan Says:

    Bufo, a belated happy birthday. Today is the day that I start moving all my work from my old laptop to my new MS Surface Pro. This is being written on the Surface Pro.

    With the advent of ebooks (and more particularly self publishing via mechanisms like KDP), I suspect that that 1.8 million number is going to be up in the tens of millions ere long.

    The search problem is only going to get worse. In the pbook world, editors act as curators/gatekeepers and keep the count down a bit. Available shelf space in bookstores would keep the count down even more, and for some categories of pbooks, shelf life could be very short, and if you missed its shelf window, so Solly Charlie.

    In my personal value system, the only thing of any value that I own is the time of my life.

    I have thought for some time now that in a totally eBooked world, where self publishing predominates, there is going to be a need for some kind of culling/reviewing service. I’m not a great fan of social networking approaches — recommendations coming from places like that, are too time consuming. Right now I get daily emails from a handful of publishers, and from Amazon. I can quickly look at them, maybe look at a couple of 1-star reviews, and make the buy/no buy decision quite quickly.

    One thing I like about the emails I now get: they take into account what I’ve already bought from them — so their suggestions tend to already be somewhat appealing. The Amazon “recommended for you” section (in my case) is also pretty good — and I could see some kind of 3rd party service evolving that takes into account my past reading interests, and makes recommendations therefrom. The key thing from my viewpoint is that there would be a two-way communication between the service, and the customer.

    It could be a subscription service, but I suppose there could be other business models (ads, publisher commissions, author supported, etc). There are many potential stakeholders and their multiple differing interests would have to be balanced somehow. With tens of millions of titles to choose from not only is the customer going to have a search problem, but authors are going to be challenged to be heard — to rise up above the dull roar of mediocrity that self publishing is sure to unleash upon the world :grin.

    Search engines like Google and Bing will probably play a big role here — probably an opportunity to develop a book or media targeted search service in addition???

    Another thought is that organs like Publishers Weekly might evolve to fill a role here as well.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      If you get a chance, let me know what you think about going to the Surface Pro after you’ve integrated it into your daily use…I’m curious.

      What you’ve said above is part of why I think a sense of having someone who knows you and who knows books and publishing would be valuable enough to gain a (somewhat limited) market.

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