How Can We Generate Rewards for Reading? [Smart Set]

Smart Set

Welcome to the weekly The Smart Set, where I share three smart pieces worth reading about the publishing and media industry. I also point to issues and questions raised, and welcome you to respond or ask your own questions in the comments.

“To seek: to embrace the questions, be wary of answers.”

—Terry Tempest Williams


Publishing’s Future: When Editors Eat Robots by Porter Anderson

This is a provocative overview of a talk by publishing industry futurist and consultant Richard Nash (formerly of Byliner, Small Demons, and Soft Skull). Some of the choicest quotes are:

  • “One of the things that I think is important for us to understand is how, in fact, limiting the book has been as a tool for taking creativity and culture and converting it into money. … It turns out that books may not necessarily be the best way for capturing the value that an author creates.”
  • “We’re going to need to re-think intellectually how we conceive of this book. Not book-as-object. But rather book-as-reading-service. As a service you offer readers.”
  • “[This] is the task that I believe we all need to take on … To ascertain how generating rewards right now for reading can be offered to readers. How do we give readers rewards right now, rather than in the future? As arbitrary or irrational or manipulative as those rewards might be: Find bullshit rewards for readers now. Because they will thank you in the future.”

Nash’s last point relates to the “quantified self” trend now prevalent in our lives. (He uses the Fitbit as an example.) His comments remind me of an excellent talk by Jesse Schell on the gamification of daily life; it’s well worth the 30 minutes to watch and imagine how this might affect writing, reading, and books.

Thoughts & questions:

  • I find authors often more capable than their publishers at capturing the value they create—if they can free themselves from thinking that money only comes from book sales. Nonfiction authors, however, tend to have an easier and smoother time creating that value (speaking/teaching, consulting, coaching, etc). It’s sometimes difficult to point to good fiction writer models to follow, where value can be captured outside the book itself, outside of the huge franchises (such as Game of Thrones). Suggestions, anyone? John Green, the YA author, comes to mind.
  • What do you think about coming up with rewards for reading?

Last Call: The End of the Printed Newspaper by Clay Shirky

When I shared this piece earlier in the week, I received a number of comments along the lines of, “Duh!”

It’s probably helpful to read another Shirky piece that helps inform “Last Call,” where he discusses the continuing nostalgia for print. Given that most traditional print publications earn the large majority of their revenue from print, and only pennies from digital, one has to start imagining (1) a lot of publications closing in the next decade, (2) new digital publishing business models that successfully charge people for content, and/or (3) more successful digital advertising models. (Native advertising looks most promising at the moment.)

Thoughts & questions:

  • Do you believe the New York Times won’t exist in print form in 2024?

Stuff I Want to Know by Hugh Howey

Howey lists a range of excellent questions he’d like Amazon to answer, including:

  • How many customers borrow a book, then go on to buy it.
  • How far readers get in a book.
  • When gamification will be implemented (very, very similar to what Nash is suggesting above—badges for reading/completing books)
  • and much more. Go browse the full list.

Thoughts & questions:

  • Amazon definitely knows the answers to the questions that Howey asks (at least those that seek data points and analysis). It speaks to me primarily of how much power and insight Amazon has, given their immense data set, that the rest of us do not.
Posted in Smart Set.
Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the co-founder and editor of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. She also has a book forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press, The Business of Being a Writer (March 2018).

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

Join the conversation

5 Comments on "How Can We Generate Rewards for Reading? [Smart Set]"

Notify of
avatar
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
trackback

[…] Welcome to the weekly The Smart Set, where I share three smart pieces worth reading about the publishing and media industry. I also point to issues and questions raised, and welcome you to respond or ask your own questions in the comments.  […]

Jamie Chavez

I’m chuffed that I’d read two of the three articles beFORE you brought them to my attention. 🙂 But when I read your summary on “gamification” I paused. (Then I read Howey’s post, which is about badges for WRITERS, not readers.) For a minute I thought someone was proposing to pat me on the head for reading books. 🙂

Iola Goulton
There is already an element of gamification for readers via Goodreads. This year I’m participating in three challenges: the 2014 Reading Challenge (how many books I read in a year – on schedule), the 2014 Mt TBR Challenge (reducing the stack of unread books, virtual or real – failing), and the 2014 New Author Challenge (reading new-to-me authors – winning). My Kobo device also has an element of gamification, although I don’t read on it often enough to earn any. But I’m interested in the idea that gamification increases participation. If they could work out a way that reading books… Read more »
wpDiscuz