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BookSwim.com's Nick Ruffilo (@bookswim)

We bookish folks currently live in a funny and expanding universe. Funny and expanding because much of it, for many of us largely takes place virtually. Well, #followreader is one prime example. And, chatting about books and publishing outside of #followreader with fellow Twitter bookish tweeps is another. As are: all the groups and fan sites and friends of a bookish feather we hang out with on Facebook. Did I forget to mention book blogs? Perish the thought! Bookish blogs are a big virtual stop for many of us.

Added to this is the increasingly (again, for many – not all – of us), digital nature of reading itself. Ebooks and ibooks and book apps and whatever will electronic reading gizmo or format will come out in the seconds it takes me to finish typing this sentence — many things about the lit life have gone virtual.

So, it’s pretty fabulous to consider the flip side of all this online activity — it can lead to some wonderful real world interactions with real world books. Consider if you will: I’m in Cambridge a few weeks ago. I casually tweet about being in Cambridge. Not moments later, my Twitter buddy @ConMartin (whom I have never met in real life), direct messages me back, and asks if I’d like to meet for coffee. REALLY meet. For REAL coffee. Well, how cool is that? Long story short, we did meet (real coffee was nixed in favor of real frosty adult beverages). And Constance gave me one of the best tours of Harvard Yard and Harvard BOOKSTORE (definitely worth a visit) that anyone could ever hope for.

@conmartin + @katmeyer meet IRL

In addition, we have a really great conversation, and I learn more about Constance’s own love of books — real booky books– and “in real life” book clubs. I, on the other hand, was able to impart to her some of the reasons I’m crazy about e-reading opportunities and online reading communities.

This is but one example of a bonding with virtual book buddy in the physical plane — another being, just last night I got to meet @susanmpls for the first time in real life for a real dinner at a real restaurant. (more accurately: a really fattening and delicious dinner at a really fabulous Italian restaurant). We talked a lot. A LOT. Almost entirely about books and publishing, but also about chocolate, and family, and – come to think of it, it was mostly about books and publishing.

Begs the question, if virtual relationships can manifest in the real world, what of the connection between physical books and ebooks? I’m not one of those alarmists (I use the term with a tiny grain of salt – please do not take offense all you alarmists, you) who worry that the paper book will be obliterated from the planet. I think paper and plastic will co-exist nicely for as long as we flesh and blood readers remain more real than virtual. But, I have also been running into a lot of cool things happening with booky books lately that make me more and more excited about the book as a real life object. One is visual search, which is a technology that allows the physical to be married to the virtual via smart phones ( QR codes for example, only, visual search ot less bar code-y and a lot more seamlessly integrated into your day to day life).

I’m working on a post over at my day job (Tools of Change) that will offer a glimpse into just how cool this technology is, and how rapidly it’s evolving. So, go over there and check it out tomorrow. (Fingers crossed it will be up tomorrow — I swear, Jamey!).

I’ve also run into some booky-bookish touchstones lately that while are not in the least bit high-tech, do a fabulous job of blurring the lines of what a book is and what the physical book as object means to us as flesh and blood readers. Another story for you: Last month I’m frantically running around BookExpo America, and I have the good fortune of meeting up with the calm, cool and collected Nick Ruffilo of BookSwim.com. We catch up (in real life, for a change) — Nick telling me some of the very interesting things that BookSwim has in store in the near future, and before parting ways, we decide to do the proper IRL thing and exchange real papery business cards. In my usual uncool, uncalm, uncollected manner, I fumble through the black hole that is my purse, looking for one undamaged and mostly legible business card. Nick, on the other hand, reaches calmly into his messenger bag and pulls out an old, leather-bound book:

Nick's book

How odd, you might think – as did I.

But, Nick is full of surprises. Turns out his book is no mere book. His book hides many secrets.

Nick's business card holder

Yeah – that’s cool. As a hobby, and side-gig, Nick takes old, damaged books and converts them into really cool bookish artifacts-with-a-purpose.

It’s interesting how the virtual and the real worlds of books and the bookish tend to collide. Interesting in a good way, I think.

p.s. – Check out Nick’s etsy store. He creates his secret compartment books on request. I might have gone and gotten one. And I might love it to death and highly recommend getting one yourself, if you’re so inclined.

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It was officially announced last week: the One Book One Twitter book club will be reading Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. The start date was yesterday, but there’s still time to jump on board. If you are curious about just how a Twitter-based, global book club works, you are not alone. In fact, #1b1t’s Marcel Valdes recently brought up the question on the One Book One Twitter website, answering her own question of “how do you get thousands of people to read one book together without ruining the suspense and twists for anyone?” with the presentation of a pretty cool (and very organized) reading and clubbing schedule:

You can read (or reread) any way you want during the next eight weeks – God help us if we tried to stop you – but please, please be kind to others and stick to the following schedule for your comments. That way even the most delicate readers among us will have a chance to enjoy Gaiman’s finely-crafted thrills.

If you feel slightly queasy about tackling such a big book, use this schedule to divvy up the task into manageable chunks. Each week, this schedule covers 70-100 pages, which you can nibble down bit by bit every night before bed, or gobble down in one great, lazy Sunday bender, but keep in mind that the discussion of anything in those chapters is fair game starting from day one. Happy reading everyone, and remember to follow @1b1t2010 for updates and to add the #1b1t to your tweets!

Week 1 : May 5-11
Caveat, Warning for Travelers
Epigraph
Discuss Chapters 1, 2, & 3

Week 2 : May 12-18
Discuss Chapters 4, 5, 6

Week 3 : May 19-25
Discuss Chapters 7, & 8

Week 4 : May 26-June 1
Discuss Chapters 9, 10, & 11

Week 5 : June 2-8
Discuss Chapters 12, & 13

Week 6 : June 9-15
Discuss Chapters 14, 15, & 16

Week 7 : June 16-22
Discuss Chapters 17, 18, & 19

Week 8 : June 23-30
Discuss Chapter 20 and Postscript

And, Jeff Howe has added additional organizational tools with the prescribed use of special Twitter hashtags for each chapter.

We have established an official system of hashmarks. It goes like this:

#1b1t: General Discussion

#1b1t_1c: Discussion of Chapter 1 (and prologue material)

#1b1t_2c: Discussion of Chapter 2

… and on until we hit Chapter 19.

So begins a very cool bookish social media community event experiment! Now to decide, where to buy the book, and in what format?

Hope you’ll all be joining in. It promises to be fun and very, very interesting!

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“Let’s love one book together, our actual geographical location be damned.”

~Jeff Howe (aka @crowdsourcing)

Dear fellow FollowReader-ers,

Jeff Howe/@crowdsourcing

We have found a bookish soul mate. His name is Jeff Howe and he’s our guest on #FollowReader today. Jeff is a contributing editor at Wired Magazine, and coiner of the phrase and author of the book Crowdsourcing – which is all well and good, but not why we’re googly-eyed over him. We like Jeff ‘cuz Jeff has this really awesome idea about getting everyone on Twitter to read the same book at the same time and form a big international book club – kind of like IRL city/community-sponsored reading events, only on Twitter and with a much bigger virtual community.

He has dubbed the project, “One Book, One Twitter” or #1b1t. And, here’s how it envisions it working:

• Now: We collect nominations for what book we want to read.

• Soon: We pick a winner out of the top selections. Why not just pick the one with the most votes? Because it’s not too hard to game the system. The final selection needs to be of general interest. It needs to be translated into many, many languages, and ideally it should be freely available.

• Soon After That: We start reading, and tweeting, and reading, and tweeting.

Isn’t that just the best?

And don’t you really want to find out more and talk about title suggestions? Good! Then meet us on Twitter today at 4pm ET.

To join the #followreader conversation, here’s what to do:

  1. Just before 4pm ET today,  log in to Twitter or whatever interface you prefer. (We recommend Tweetchat, which refreshes quickly and automatically loads your hashtag when you are in the discussion.)
  2. To follow the discussion, run a search for #followreader
  3. I’ll start by asking Jeff a few questions, before opening up the discussion to the group.
  4. To post a comment to the discussion, make sure that the hashtag #followreader is in each tweet you write.

About Jeff Howe (@crowdsourcing)

Jeff Howe is a contributing editor at Wired Magazine, where he covers the media and entertainment industry, among other subjects. In June of 2006 he published “The Rise of Crowdsourcing” in Wired. He has continued to cover the phenomenon in his blog, crowdsourcing.com, and published a book on the subject for Crown Books in September 2008. Before coming to Wired he was a senior editor at Inside.com and a writer at the Village Voice. In his fifteen years as a journalist he has traveled around the world working on stories ranging from the impending water crisis in Central Asia to the implications of gene patenting. He has written for Time Magazine, U.S. News & World Report, The Washington Post, Mother Jones and numerous other publications. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, Alysia Abbott, their daughter Annabel Rose and son Phineas and a miniature black lab named Clementine.

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When it comes to building online communities around books, authors and publishing imprints, what are the top social media platforms and analytical tools? To what extent can the results of these online efforts be tied to increased book sales? And which independent publishers are ahead of the game, and what obstacles do they face?

These are some of the questions we explore in the second part of my conversation about building online communities with social media consultant Jesse McDougall, which picks up where we left off in Tuesday’s interview

Q&A with Jesse McDougall

What are the top two or three technologies have you found most valuable in engaging audiences online?

Twitter for daily conversation. A blog as a conduit for book, author, and community content. Blip.tv for serving up high-resolution video with no size or time restrictions.

For tracking your success and progress, ChartBeat, HootSuite, and Google Analytics are essential.

What concrete results have you achieved so far?

In the first year after Chelsea Green implemented the new social strategy, the company roughly doubled their web traffic. Eighteen months after launch, traffic regularly spiked to 150% over the starting point. In that time, Chelsea Green added several thousand people to the e-newsletter mailing list, grew to become the second-most-followed book publisher on Twitter, and established weekly content delivery relationships with top blogs in the niche (Huffington Post, PlanetGreen, Alternet, etc.). Also. many of Chelsea Green’s authors were invited to become regular contributors on many of these same blogs—increasing the exposure to new and major audiences.

To what extent can you tie your results to increased book sales?

At the present time, the effect social media promotions on book sales can be difficult to track. The only time a publisher can directly track sales from online promotion is if a person learns of a book “out in the digital wild” and then follows the accompanying link back to the publisher’s online bookstore where he or she purchases the book. If the person decides instead to purchase the book from their favorite local bookseller, or from a different online retailer, that sale is difficult (or impossible) to track directly back to online promotional efforts.

The best a publisher can do—if they would like to prove that their social media strategy improves sales—is to boost their own site traffic through social media outreach, and then focus on boosting their own site’s sales conversion rate to do a better job of converting the new traffic to sales.

Which publishers do you see as most effectively marketing their books this way?

Chelsea Green, obviously, is still doing a great job. O’Reilly is another great example. Greywolf Press in Minneapolis is doing a great job on Twitter. The keys to being effective are consistency, personality, and community involvement. These are not one-way media channels, they require that participants speak AND listen. The presses above do a great job of that.

What are the biggest obstacles for independent presses in building and maintaining these online audiences?

Time and staff. Some of these campaigns require significant upkeep. It can be difficult to find the time and people to maintain a consistent presence on any of these social media platforms. The key is to do something every (week) day—whether you can afford five people for five hours, or one person for ten minutes. People who reach out and contact you in any fashion on Twitter or Facebook or your blog will need a response, or they’ll disappear.

Do you see any downside to giving away books or content online?

Books should be owned and content should be free. Content is stolen when publishers make it easier to steal than to buy. By locking up digital content with DRM or asking readers to sign unholy licenses or making content exclusive to one vendor, publishers are making it more attractive to snub the law and steal (and distribute) the digital content than to buy it. Publishers should offer digital books and chapters for sale for a slightly reduced price straight from their web sites in an open-source (or universal) format. Currently, a DRM-free PDF gets my vote, but I see room for something better.

What technological tools or developments are you most looking forward to in the coming year?

I’m looking forward to the development of mobile media. I think that high-quality digital content delivery through mobile devices with screens big enough for reading long-format books will revolutionize book reading and book content. Paper books will continue to have their place and incredible value. Lifelong readers recognize that and will continue to buy paper books for their unique virtues. Electronic devices will never be as good as paper books for quiet, powerless, peaceful reading.

However, once high-quality digital mobile content delivery is done well, book content can grow beyond paper and e-ink devices. Books will slowly evolve to look more like web pages, with links, supplemental videos, audio clips, and the book publisher’s intended formatting and design. Of course, plain text should still be an option for readers who don’t want to be bothered with the flash and bother of videos, etc., but the option for all the bells and whistles we’re already used to on the web should be available as well. The ability to include such ancillary content will provide publishers with an entirely new product that offers more than the bound book can or should. This new product could be a powerful new revenue stream.

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This Friday, January 29, Gretchen Rubin, author of  the memoir The Happiness Project and the popular blog by the same name, joins host Charlotte Abbott for our weekly #FollowReader chat from 4-5pm ET.

The Happiness Project book was an instant New York Times bestseller earlier this month. The blog has appeared on Slate as well as the Huffington Post and other sites – and more than 33,000 people have signed up for the monthly newsletter. 

Gretchen Rubin has published four books and written three unpublished novels— now safely locked in a drawer, she says. She began her career as a lawyer – starting as editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Journal and clerking for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor – before becoming a full-time writer.

Among the topics we’ll explore on Friday: 

  • How Gretchen developed her blog while writing her book, and was picked up as a featured blogger by Slate and the Huffington Post, while also using Twitter to drive traffic to her blog
  • How she differentiated her blog from her book, and convinced even her most loyal weekly readers that her memoir would be fresh and rewarding enough to buy in hardcover
  • How she lay the groundwork for her national book tour by engaging her blog readers, and other factors that helped her memoir become an instant New York Times bestseller

Here’s a taste of what Gretchen has to say about planning her book tour:

“When I asked my readers whether they would come see me if I came to their town, I figured I’d just get a few responses, but I was curious to see what people would say.

But the response was fabulous! Last time I checked, 700 people had replied to my question! I was dumbfounded – and thrilled by the enthusiasm, as you can imagine.

Of those 700, a lot of replies came from towns that would be hard to add to a tour – Anchorage, Alaska say – and a surprising number of people responded from overseas. It was great to have this new way to get a feel for my readership, and I could see interesting “hot spots.” For example, I was struck by the number of people who responded from Philadelphia, but then I remembered that the Univ. of Pennsylvania offers a program for Masters in Applied Positivity Psychology, so maybe that has something to do with it.

To join the #followreader conversation, here’s what to do:  

  1. On Friday, January 25, just before 4pm ET,  log in to Twitter or whatever interface you prefer. (We recommend Tweetchat, which refreshes quickly and automatically loads your hashtag when you are in the discussion.)
  2. To follow the discussion, run a search for #followreader
  3. I’ll start by asking Gretchen Rubin (@gretchenrubin) a few questions, before opening up the discussion to the group.
  4. To post a comment to the discussion, make sure that the hashtag #followreader is in each tweet you write. 

 If you can’t join the discussion, watch this space next week for a recap of the highlights.  

Have a topic you wish we would cover? Please feel free to suggest topics for upcoming #followreader chats below.   Happiness Project Book trailer  

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BABY NEW YEAR!

Happy New Year everybody!

Hope your holiday season has been lovely. I’ve been spending time with family and friends, traveling just the littlest bit, and relaxing in preparation for 2010 – a year, and the start of a brand new decade-both bound to be full of more challenges, excitement and wonderful opportunities for the world of book publishing and reading.

In honor of the occasion of a brand new year, #FollowReader tomorrow will be a very casual Twitter Open House. I’ll be hosting, and you can find me on Twitter from 4 pm to 5pm ET. (Truth be told, I’ll probably be there long before and long after, as well).

While there’s no official topic, our good friend and blogger, Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind‘s Sarah Weinman (@SarahW) spurred a possible discussion thread: How can book blogs best help fill the void left by the loss of KIRKUS?

Hopefully, Sarah will be able to join us – and hopefully many of us will be around to chat in a casual and optimistic conversation about the year ahead for books!

If you can’t join the discussion, watch this space next week for a recap of the highlights.

To join the #followreader conversation on Friday, here’s what to do:

1. Just before 4pm ET, log in to Twitter or whatever interface you use (we recommend Tweetchat)
2. To follow the discussion, run a search for #followreader
3. I’ll start by asking a few questions.
4. To post to the discussion, make sure that the hashtag #followreader is in each tweet

NOTE: TweetChat refreshes quickly and automatically loads your hashtag when you are in the discussion.

Please feel free to suggest topics for upcoming #followreader chats below.

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We interrupt this public service blog to bring you an update about its sponsor: NetGalley. As you may have heard through twitter or my e-newsletter (not signed up?), we’re in the middle of a special theme week at NetGalley!

Welcome Harlequin Week!


We’re so excited to announce that Harlequin Books has joined the list of publishers using NetGalley to provide digital galleys to reviewers and professional readers.

NetGalley members are now able to request a digital review copy of dozens of great Harlequin books, including romance, women’s fiction, paranormal, erotica, YA and non-fiction titles. These galleys can be downloaded as PDFs to your computer, or read on your Kindle or Sony Reader. Browse all Harlequin titles here.

Coincidentally, we also launched our Facebook Page this week – complete with an event for Welcome Harlequin Week, of course!

In preparation for this special week, I asked some of our favorite romance reviewers using NetGalley what they thought about Harlequin coming on board.

Here are some highlights:

Harlequin on NetGalley is a meeting of digital brilliance in one location – it’s like chocolate, seasalt and caramel. Warm, dryer-fresh socks and a book. Flannel jammies and hot cocoa. Perfect merge. Excuse me, I have to go indulge! There is no better audience for digital books and the instant enjoyment of digital reading than romance readers. Women buy more electronics, buy more fiction, and now, with the convenience of ebooks and portable devices, can read more – any time, any place. We are the digital readers that publishers are looking for – and we’re not that hard to find, thanks to NetGalley.

—Sarah of Smart Bitches Trashy Books, @SmartBitches

Harlequin joining NetGalley is exciting news. I think the first romance I read was a Harlequin, probably Harlequin Presents because I remember the white cover and the circle with the hero and heroine pictured in it. Harlequin Presents is still one of my favorite romance lines, but I’m also a fan of their Luna books line (which is for fans of fantasy with romantic elements). They just started a Harlequin Teen line which looks promising. If I see a few of my favorite lines from Harlequin at NetGalley, I will be a happy reviewer. From what I’ve seen Harlequin has been embracing digital technology – they have a reader panel called Tell Harlequin which is all online, all their new titles come in ebook format, and for their 60th anniversary celebration they have harlequincelebrates.com where 16 ebooks are available free to download…Romance is a popular genre, it will be popular in the physical form and in the digital form.

—Janice of janicu’s book blog, @janicu

I was very excited when I learned Harlequin would be offering its galleys digitally through NetGalley.  Harlequin continues to impress me with its whole hearted embrace of digital books and digital media.  Clearly Harlequin is working hard to fulfill its goal of getting a romance in every woman’s hands. With the Harlequin galleys available digitally, it will reduce the negative impact on the environment and increase efficiencies for reviewing teams.  Many review blogs are comprised of individuals located all over the US and often, even international locales.  Digital galleys allow the review blogs to divert their time and attention to actually reading the books instead of focusing on the ministerial aspect of allocation of books. It’s a win all the way around and I laud Harlequin for taking the opportunities that NetGalley is providing.

—Jane Litte of Dear Author, @dearauthor

Good stuff! I hope you’ll join the growing list of readers who are getting an early peek at some great Harlequin titles. And as always, don’t hesitate to email me if you have any questions or feedback.

Happy Reading!

All best,

Lindsey (your friendly Digital Concierge at NetGalley)

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