By Guy LeCharles Gonzalez, Chief Executive Optimist, Digital Book World
“The consumer isn’t a moron; she is your wife. She wants all the information you can give her.”
Jane Litte is a lawyer, an avid eBook reader, and the co-founder of the popular (and sometimes controversial) DearAuthor.com, “a romance review blog by readers for readers”. If you’re a romance author or publisher, you want her to love your book, and probably cringe at the thought of being featured in the notorious #romfail tweets that led to the Romance Writers Association not renewing her membership.
“I started Dear Author with a friend of mine four years ago,” Litte explains. “We had belonged to a small internet mailing group bound by our love for romance novels. As the internet mailing group activity was waning, reader blogs were on the rise. With the help and encouragement of other reader bloggers, I started Dear Author. We thought we would write our reviews and engage other reader bloggers and be thrilled if even 100 people visited per day. ”
According to Compete.com, Dear Author has far exceeded Jane’s early expectations, with traffic in January estimated at over 22,000 visitors and over 40,00 page views.
How do authors and publishers feel about Dear Author?
“The reaction from authors has been mixed. Some believe we are devoted to tearing down books and authors,” explains Litte. “Some believe that we are too outspoken and demand too much from authors and publishers in terms of ethical behavior, quality products, and thoughtfulness in prose. Others enjoy the blog, the reviews, and even the opinion pieces we do which can be provocative.”
“Publishers, for the most part, view Dear Author as a way to publicize their books and have been very supportive by providing books for giveaways and galley copies for review.”
Essentials of Digital Books from the Consumer’s Point of View
At last week’s Tools of Change Conference in New York City, Litte teamed up with with Angela James (Carina Press) and Sarah Wendell (Smart Bitches Trashy Books) to present the findings of their survey, “Essentials of Digital Books from the Consumer’s Point of View”, the slides and data from which she’s shared with us.
“We promoted the survey on our own blogs and on ereader sites like mobileread.org, Amazon, teleread.org, and Nook boards,” says Litte. “We were trying to get a broad range of responses.”
While not scientific by standard definitions, they received over 2700 responses from passionate readers — approximately half of Verso’s response and more than five times BISG’s — and nearly 2/3rds left detailed comments that make for interesting reading for publishers, authors and eBook pundits alike.
“Ebook tags and filenames for authors & titles are not easily sorted by author LAST name and by series order. This is a HUGE frustration for me as I want to be able to easily know what order to read books in a series!”
“We want the same time and consideration put into ebooks as is put into hardcover books.”
“US-based publishers need to recognize that the publishing world does not end at the border. If they wish to increase their sales, they need to increase the availability of formats available to other countries.”
“Bloody geographical restrictions! Isn’t my non-US currency good enough??”
One of the most notable highlights was the response to this question:
Do you feel like publishers care about you as an ebook reader?
75.11% said “NO”
“I thought the response was very good,” Litte said. “My main takeaway is that readers are hungry to have a conversation with publishers.”
Publishers Need to Engage Their Readers Directly
I asked Litte for her three primary takeaways from the survey, for publishers and authors, and like any good lawyer would, she offered four:
1. Readers really want to be heard. They want to be engaged. I think that there is a real opportunity for authors and publishers to cultivate relationships with readers for the benefit of all parties.
2. Readers want flexibility. Many of the responses to the survey decried DRM not because they wanted to share but because they wanted to own the product that they paid for and DRM prevents free use of the product. Ownership has value to readers and DRM devalues the concept of ownership. Readers want to highlight and annotate. They want to be able to search and sort. They want to be able to organize their library and then they want to be able to read that library on any device that they own now or will own in the future. They can’t do those things with DRM.
3. Quality! Publishers need to expend as much effort producing the digital book as the print book. The readers in the survey commented that the formatting for text was off, not to mention the multiple spelling and punctuation errors that appear. The digital books are not up to par with the print books in terms of quality.
4. Geographic limitations are a thing of the past. Geographic limitations are antiquated. Because readers know that there are books available in digital format, they are not willing to wait until an author sells those rights to their market. They just want the book. They are willing to pay for it but right now readers are being forced into the pirate market and they are learning how to get books for free rather than through a legitimate marketplace because there is no legitimate marketplace for many of these non-US readers. This is a very real issue that needs to be addressed now rather than five years from now.
Jane Litte is the co-founder of DearAuthor.com, “a romance review blog by readers for readers.” She blogs about books, technology, and life. They converge at some point.
Guy LeCharles Gonzalez is the Chief Executive Optimist for Digital Book World.