The massive changes occurring in the publishing industry have created an equally large side effect–more reader power. When our only options for finding a new book were buying it in a bookstore or borrowing at the library (or from a friend who bought it as a bookstore), the publishing industry had exclusive say about what actually made it to where we could decide to buy it.
With the minor exception of mimeographed material and a few courageous–and mostly obscure–authors attempting to print copies themselves, content had to appeal to those within the industry. It also had to get past all the assorted in-house filters–editors, marketers, lawyers, accountants. New releases had to, in the vast majority of cases, fit the existing molds. Publishers wanted “fresh voices” but they had to be able to sing in a familiar key.
Ah, how things have changed! Digital printing made setting up a book for the printing process far less expensive. More authors became willing to get their own stuff out there. Now you can print one copy of your book at a time for a reasonable cost.
Amazon, who has completely changed the retail landscape for books as well as pretty much everything else, was willing from very early on to list books by anyone and everyone, not just “the usual players.” That created a much more open access to whatever you wanted to read.
Most recently, the e-book became an option. Now you can literally put a book out there with no out of pocket expense. Anyone with internet access and determination can now publish a book. So now instead of too few options, we have too many–and some of them are not good books. (That’s not unique to the new marketplace though.)
In the old system, recommendations and helpful information from booksellers led you to the good books. Though online sources of that kind of information have started cropping up, Amazon offered an alternative early on that’s gained an amazing amount of traction–the online reader review. Ordinary people who read the book let others know what they thought of it. The reviews are shorter than what you’d read in the newspaper, but there are more of them.
This is where that increase in Reader Power comes in. Instead of telling five friends about a good book over the course of several weeks or months, we can now let everyone who goes to that seller’s website (overall, millions a day) know that it’s a good book–just by posting a review. When you do it, you’re doing more than helping people who may want to buy that book, too. You’re encouraging authors to write more of that kind of book. When you write a review of the books you like, you are shaping the content of the publishing industry. Power, right?
Give what you like a push. Write a review!