Danziger is used to looking at the industry from fresh vantage points. Trained as a lawyer, she began her career negotiating licenses at a children’s media company, before moving to Random House, where she headed up legal and business affairs in the children’s division. After spearheading a project to digitize thousands of the company’s backlist titles in the early ‘90s, she left Random to start her own literary agency, Fox Meadow Media, and then, six years later, DailyLit.
In this installment in our series on publishing professionals who are helping change the way we read, we talk with Danziger about the future of digital reading. For more background about DailyLit and the Publishing Point, keep scrolling.
What reading habits are emerging among your subscribers?
They’re all over the map. More than 60% of our subscribers change the default day and time that our e-mails arrive – compared to 90% of people who accept the default with other subscription media. Commuters may start their day with an installment of DailyLit, or read it when they get to work; there are also people who read it on their lunchtime break, or tell us, “this is my 5pm martini”.
How do most people access DailyLit?
The iPhone is getting bigger, but last survey showed that most people were reading on PCs or laptops.
Do your readers seem to have different reading tastes, based on the device they are using?
We’ve been conducting a survey and people say that when they’re reading on the computer, it’s more for information than relaxation. I’m also hearing that younger people actually read blogs for relaxation on the computer. But DailyLit readers are definitely reading serious books. They are reading and finishing Anna Karenina on DailyLit, saying things like “this is the first tool that’s allowing me to read the classics I want to read.” We have more fiction available, but nonfiction is doing well too.
How do you see the future of digital reading, based on the feedback you’re getting to Daily Lit?
It’s all about consumer choice and giving readers what they want. We’re just at the tip of the iceberg now. The whole industry will be completely transformed, and not very far in the future. I think there will be lots of options for people to read. Some will read a book in bed, or an iPhone app at the beach. DailyLit is one way for people to integrate books into their lives. As content is created for different mediums, the market for reading will only get bigger, and that’s where the fun begins.
How do you think the reading tastes of people who are in their 20s now will evolve in the next few decades?
My gut instinct is that books will be evolving in terms of content, and will emerge in different media. There will still be paperbacks, but there will also be a whole world of books that merge text with video and social media. We’re starting to see projects now that make use of the tools that are out there. But at end of day, it’s all about story and storytelling. Words will still play a big role, but they will be supported with visual and audio tools. Books as we know them will continue, and the great ones will live on.
Do you think Japanese-style cell phone novels have a chance in the U.S.?
We really want to keep DailyLit about high quality work. We want to make sure that we have content people can trust. We might open DailyLit up to previously unpublished work down the road, I’m definitely thinking about that, but it’s not currently a site where people can automatically add content they’ve created.
How will DailyLit keep up with reader tastes?
We’re in the process of adding more titles created specifically for DailyLit, and are allowing authors and publishers to create content that work well in the serialized format. We’re also developing lots of interesting technology to help market books and expand our reach to additional readers. For instance, we recently launched a virtual book club on Twitter, so that folks can read books on to the same schedule.
DAILYLIT Vital Stats
Laurels: Chosen by the Sunday Times (UK) as the # 1 best book website in August, 2009
Number of Daily Lit subscribers: “Hundreds of thousands,” says Danziger.
Number of titles read to date: More than 500,000 books in more than 25 million installments.
Number of titles available: about 1500 – including newly released and public domain fiction and nonfiction titles, language lessons, SAT prep, and original series, such as a “Wikipedia tour” of Greek gods and goddesses, and a fashion series, Shoes, Bags and Tiaras, which draws on book content published by London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.
Price range: About half the available titles are free, including classics and some new titles sponsored by their publishers. Short stories cost 99 cents. Full length books range from $4.99 to $9.99.
Partners: Publisher partners include Harper Studio, which entered a sponsorship making all of their fall titles available for free, and Macmillan, which is sponsoring a backlist push for suspense author Joe Finder. Non-book title sponsors have included H. Stern Jewelers and Gallery Collection.
Promotion: Users can link their DailyLit profile to Twitter, to automatically tweet about when they start and finish a book
Extern program: Publishing people who want to learn about digital world can join this program, which requires starting your own blog, usingTwitter and Ning to engage a community, and eventually presenting project results to Daily Lit.
THE PUBLISHING POINT Vital Stats
Launched: Spring 2009 as the Digital Publishing Group; Relaunched October 2009 as The Publishing Point
Mission: “The group is a way to educate and empower and inspire people in publishing to move to the next level in publishing’s industrial revolution, and to help publishers become more comfortable in this space.”
Features: Free monthly speaker series typically meets in conference rooms at the Random House building, 1745 Broadway at 55th St., New York City. New website includes community forums, a listserv, and a video interview series (first up: Cory Doctorow).
Members to date: 304
Next meeting: Michael Healy, Executive Director of the Book Rights Registry, to speak on The Google Book Settlement: What You Really Need to Know (November 18, 2009 at 12:30pm). Details here.
- Hanny Hindi, from Clickable, on Search Engine Marketing and Search Engine Optimizaton
- Seth Godin, author of Tribes, etc., on Rethinking the Publishing Industry
- Andrew Savakas, from O’Reilly Publishing, on Why Mobile Matters
- Gail Harwood, from Martha Stewart Omnimedia, on What Is a Publisher?
- David Karp, from Tumblr.com, on developing books ideas via social media
- Neilan Choksi, from Lexcycle/Stanza, on mobile e-publishing
- Debbie Stier, from HarperStudio, on the future of publishing