I mean, twenty years ago, heck, even ten years ago, someone like me would not have (potentially) the entire population of the world for my audience.
Right? Who would have thunk it that you’d be reading this very blog?
You probably do not know me, but happened upon my blog in some random search and got sucked in. Too bad for you, but great for me. 😉
Anyway, my little corner of the web, visible to all the world, would not be possible if it wasn’t for all the technology so ubiquitous today. It has not only changed who we read, but how.
If you think this post is about e-readers. You are wrong. There are new horizons out there, folks. Reading is getting customized.
Pay for What You Read
If you haven’t heard, Smashwoods recently made a new deal with Oyster, a subscription reading service (edit: see end of post for supporting links).
You pay a monthly fee and have access to their entire database (whatever that may contain). In the case of Spotify and Pandora, that was music. You listen to all you want, whenever you want.
If the case of Oyster, you’ll read whatever you want, whenever you want (via an app on your device of choice).
How the publisher and author are paid gets complicated. Essentially, there are complex algorithms that figure out how much you’ve read of a particular work and compensation is based on that.
Does anyone else think that’s…unfair?
I buy books all the time that I don’t end up reading. I might some day, but I’m fine with buying the entire book now and waiting for that lazy, Sunday afternoon when I can get to it. Hell, I’m even fine with never reading it. The fact that it piqued my interest at one point indicates to me that the book cover, story blurb, etc did it’s job – it sold the book.
Whether I read it or not seems inconsequential – to me.
But I’ve been brought up in a world when words weren’t so easily flung across the globe. When a book had weight in your hand, took up space on your book shelf, and was made of wood-pulp and ink. I paid my hard-earned cash for all the effort it took to get that fat baby into my hands.
Similarly, I kind of think that the money I pay for an e-book today goes to the writer/publisher/distributor for creating an entire package I find of value. Paying for a portion of it doesn’t seem right.
So, what’s the value of 0’s and 1’s, and a whole host of cloud services that stream a complex pattern into your device? In a few years, will they be streaming that directly into our brains? How much will that cost? How much will we get paid?
You Want a Side Salad with That Steak?
Great technological ideas don’t always fly. I was listening to an NPR program the other day (can’t remember which) and they were talking about the digital wallet, lamenting how it hasn’t quite caught on yet.
As a woman, I have the freedom to carry around a purse. A glorified wallet, for sure, but I can’t imagine giving it up for a digital purse or wallet.
Why? Because I like my bag. I put all sorts of things in it that would be impossible (I think) to put in a digital version. It’s got copious amounts of tissue (gotta have ’em – seasonal allergies morph right into flu/cold season), lip balm, my keys, pocket knife, pens (to poke an eye out, I guess, we all know that pens are a thing of the past), and a flashlight (in case my phone dies).
That’s a long way of saying that while Oyster and other reading services are on the cutting edge of digital reading technology, it just may be a fad like the digital wallet. We are not quite ready for it. And might not even want to embrace it.
But here’s another idea that might work.
Hugh Howey, dystopia author of the Silo Saga (Wool, Shift, and Dust), recently posted an idea I thought might catch on. Sort of a buffet for readers. Or the ability to customize their reading experience.
His idea is essentially giving the reader a way to prioritize her reading choices for short story collections. I don’t see why this wouldn’t work for an author’s entire body of work, not just short story collections.
What do you think? Do you know of other ways folks are looking to change the reading experience?
How do you read? What words are you willing to pay for?
Also, check out this post, also by Mr. Howey. Makes me wonder how reading subscriptions will affect his third and fourth points.