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?”
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.
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:
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.