Digital Book World hosted an interesting webcast today, called Finding Books Without Borders: Discoverability in a Digital and Social World. Two fairly new companies, Jellybooks and Readmill, talked about how they tackle the issue in their own ways.
Andrew Rhomberg, the founder of Jellybooks, talked about the four ways that his company helps solve the discovery problem.
Covers are worth more than 1,000 words, and on Jellybooks, book cover images help to make discovery more fun.
Social discovery is another way of saying word-of-mouth, but Jellybooks focuses on the word of mouth that happens on social networks. For example, it takes advantage of Facebook’s open graph to show more metadata on books. Jellybooks also uses Pinterest strategically, where every pin for every book has a title, cover, synopsis, and sample button to encourage users to click on the sample link and download part of the book.
People learn about books through a variety of methods, whether its mentioned in a footnote of a paper, a newspaper article, or through some cultural connectivity. To help readers become more aware of a book, Jellybooks uses special widgets. Authors, bloggers, and publishing partners can embed the widget on their webpage, and it will work like a Facebook “like” box, except instead of liking a book, you can download a sample of the book.
Data Driven Discovery
This is still in the works at Jellybooks, but it will help power personalized discovery.
Jellybooks is also looking at books in new ways.
“Instead of thinking of the book in its traditional packaging, as a hardback, paperback, or e-book, we can think of the book as just a url or link,” Andrew said. This means a book can be considered as an Amazon page, or a Goodreads review, or any web page that is uniquely linked to an ISBN or can be linked to an ISBN, he said.
In doing this, we can then monitor how the links are shared on social networks, and then look at how people reference links. Do people share quotes? Links in an email? Links to an Amazon page? Andrew said that if we know the conversation between people, we can see how one influences the other to potentially take action (buy a book).
The purpose of looking at social conversation is it helps us understand influence, he said. We can use that to find answers to the questions, how do we find the audience for a book, and how can we target readers? Other questions include who is influencing the reader? Whom does a reader influence? Where do people discover books? How do readers transition from discovery to sampling, purchasing, sharing, reviewing, etc.?
Wherever possible, Jellybooks includes links to encourage sharing and discovery.
Jellybooks helps find readers using incentivized discovery (promotions and deals). One type of deal only lasts 12 hours, and when it launches, it is sent out to select users. These users can sample, and download 10% of the book, read it on the way to work, and then decide if they want to buy the full book. The deals are usually 50% discounts. If they do, they may join in on the deal, but their credit card will not be charged until a certain number of people–set by the publisher–sign up. Readers are encouraged to share the deal with their friends, and once the critical number of people needed is reached, all credit cards are charged and the book is immediately sent to the people involved in the deal.
The reason the deal only lasts 12 hours is because it is meant to give people time to read the sample on their commutes. Also, there must be an element of time sensitivity, or else people may procrastinate on joining the deal. If the deal expires and the critical number of people is not reached, then the deal does not go through, and Jellybooks tells everyone they need to share the link with more people the next time around.
Andrew said that Jellybooks wants authors and publishers to be able to have conversations with readers, because “readers are our ambassadors.”
Eventually Jellybooks will let authors submit books directly to the platform, and be able to use Jellybooks’ marketing devices, such as its widgets. This will help authors have develop their audience and have conversations with their fans.
Henrik Berggren from Readmill spoke of how his company is helping readers. The small company based in Berlin launched two years ago, and its goal is to give the next generation a great reading experience on digital devices.
“These kinds of experiences have a lot to do with community,” Henrik said. “What’s important for building a new way to read and enjoy books is to make that experience social.”
Readmill doesn’t sell books, which according to Henrik, “lets us be totally agnostic when it comes to where the book is actually bought.”
Readmill focuses on three ways to help readers discover new books: reviews, recommendations, and highlights.
Users are able to write reviews for books, which can help other people decide whether or not to read a book.
Instead of having a 5-star system of recommending, readers can only say if they do or don’t recommend a book. Henrik says this helps prevent users from just giving out a lot of 3-star, neutral recommendations.
Readmill is also data driven, and its system can tell you how much time it takes personally to read a book, depending on your reading speed and how often you read during the week. Henrik said this opens up for new types of discovery, that have to do with different data sets.
Users on Readmill can highlight their favorite passages. Popular highlights aggregates a small community of readers around a book, by showing the most important passages of a book. Henrik said he thinks it makes more sense to give people the highlights of book instead of just the first 10% as a sample. The highlights comprise about 10% of the book, but Henrik said it is the most relevant 10%.
The highlighted passages serve as micro recommendations. When people share highlights, they are telling someone about a book they are currently reading, what they like about the book, and why they are recommending it.
Readmill makes all of this data available to everyone, Henrik said, so hopefully we will see more applications online to help consumer make better decisions and discover in a better way. Henrik said Readmill wants to give readers timely recommendations, and timely ways of discovering new books to read.
“We know when you finished a book, so when you actually said you finished something in our app, we will send you an email with recommendations you marked as interesting before, but also something [highly] rated from the community, and [something] your friends are reading,” he said.
Since Readmill started sending out recommendation emails after users finished a book, Henrik said they have seen a huge spike in people buying their next book immediately after finishing. It helps to send those recommendations at the right time, he said.
Search is another key part of Readmill. “In the best of worlds, we want to have all the relevant passages in all books indexed,” Henrik said.
With Readmill, people can search for a specific topic. The search will cover not only the title of the book, but what’s “in between the covers” (a very important part of Readmill).
The search is also relevant for search engines such as Google and Yahoo. “How many times have you searched for a quote and tried to find the book that it’s in?” Henrik said.
With Readmill, people can search quotes, find it, buy the book, and then find where the quote is exactly in the book. Readmill also now has a “send to Readmill” feature, where you can send a book to read in Readmill in one click. This helps integrate the reading experience.