Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Holy Grail of Book Sites (Part One)

Before I start, let me make it clear that this article is copyright me 2010 and I license anyone reading it to use and reproduce any part or the entirety of it for any purpose they see fit as well as any ideas contained within for as long as they like. I don't care about compensation or even credit. My brain spouts enough ideas on a daily basis that I mostly just want to get rid of them. Try patenting any of my ideas though and this will most certainly be used to invalidate the patent.

Down to business. I've had a conversation or two with Marta Acosta, author of the Casa Dracula novels and Queen of Vampire Wire, about how the book publishing industry is failing spectacularly to work up a good online book site. Since that's something I'd really like to see, I'm going to try to explain exactly how to do so.

I suppose the first thing we need to decide here is who should be creating the site. By that I mean the entity in control of it's creation and continued operation, not the designers, they come later. Unfortunately it's also the hardest thing to decide.

You could start it up under an existing publisher. The problem I can see that that would cause are most publishers are going to be of the if we have something awesome and they don't, we'll make more money than them mentality. Or the idea that their books should be linked in preference to another publisher's. Which would spell death for the site before it even began. What we're after is an a rising tide lifts all boats mentality.

You might be able to get that from a independent, non-profit group created by several or all of the major publishers but then you run the risk of bureaucratic entropy. You also risk the appointment of jackasses who don't understand what we're trying to do and see the whole thing as a cushy bit of extra income they don't have to actually do anything for. There's also the chance you'll end up with imperialist explecitive's like ICANN (the guys in charge of the domain naming system for the Internet).

Government run? No, that's right out. I'm not going to go into why. If you don't know by now, you're in trouble and should burn your voter registration card for the good of whichever nation you're a citizen of.

Funded by a private citizen is a possibility but that runs the same risks as dictatorship. Sure you could get a saint but you could also get a tyrant. He/She is also not going to be around forever and then you're stuck answering the question all over again.

A better bet would be a book/ebook distributor. Though here the down side is that if the distributor doesn't stock your book, they won't want to list it. Amazon has already tried and failed miserably, so let's discount them. Apple is right out too; they've made an entire business model of not playing remotely well with others. is much closer but, like Amazon, they try to throw everything at you and see what sticks; we're looking for a record of simplicity and lack of clutter here.

I give up, maybe you could get the Better Business Bureau or someone similar to run the thing. They're, at least in theory, in favor of anything that's good for all business.

That's all for the moment, next installment in a day or two.

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