B&N Desperately Needs To Become a Technology Company
Reading Reinvented

Social Reading is Coming. Deal with It.

The skeptics tell me “reading is a solitary activity” and “my reading will never be social.” That’s fine. When social features are fully built into our e-reading devices and apps I’m sure they’ll include a disable option for unsocial readers. The rest of us, however, will enjoy a level of engagement and discoverability that was never possible in the print world.

Don’t confuse today’s lame highlights-sharing functionality with tomorrow’s fully social feature set. Our industry is only in the very early stages of implementing social features and the major players are also the biggest laggards. It's remarkable that Amazon and B&N don't see how powerful social functionality can be to enhancing the e-reading experience as well as selling more content.

My optimism here stems from looking closer at a couple of terrific startups: ReadSocial and BookShout. I've been fortunate to spend time with founders from both of these companies and I think they're on to something. They each take different approaches but their early products are compelling.

BookShout currently offers a religious vertical with plenty of great titles. It's a terrific way for a church small group to read an ebook together. Watch their short video and you'll undoubtedly see the opportunity for more topic verticals within the BookShout platform.

While BookShout leverages your social graph ReadSocial accepts the fact that your Facebook friends might not be your reading friends. They leverage the hashtag we're all familiar with from Twitter but they use it in a new way to create reading groups around common interests. The ReadSocial platform is also one giant API so it's extremely flexible. You'll find more ReadSocial details in this interview I recently did with BookShout co-founder Travis Alber:

P.S. -- I'm at BEA this week. Things kick off Monday with the IDPF's Digital Book 2012 event. I'll be there Monday and from Tuesday thru Thursday you'll likely find me at the TOC booth, DZ2309. If you're at BEA be sure to stop by and say hello.


Adam C. Engst

I'd be more interested in hearing from real people who like or dislike social reading, rather than the founders of companies who of course think it's the next thing. I find that I like recommending books I've read to a small set of family and close friends (and sometimes lending them, of course), but I truly can't imagine wanting to say something to random other people while reading a book.

Peyton Stafford

Joe is right on this, though it's hard for us traditional authors and publishers to accept. Think of it as a literary coffee shop forum, but electronic and global. It's a good thing.

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