Books have always been about conversations, a way to share ideas and pass on knowledge so that we as people improve with each generation.
Technology is making that conversation better by adding more voices to the dialogue. We see that every day at Lulu. Content that a traditional publisher would overlook is thriving here — books about using Zen Cart shopping cart software, about coaching water polo, about playing games with robots. It all exists because our technology platform provides a low-cost way — it’s free — to unleash ideas into the market and let creators profit.
That’s important. But in my view, technology has an even more critical role to play. It has to help people find the conversations that are most relevant to them. Readers are hungry for new ideas. Authors are eager to share their knowledge with new readers.
Someone has to connect them.
The models we’ve traditionally used are outdated. There’s serendipity, wandering through a bookstore hoping to find something that seems relevant. There are strangers, culling through online reviews or relying on purchase algorithms to see what stands out.
And there are friends. By far, friends matter most. Many of our reading choices are influenced by the people we know — friends, friends of friends, classmates, neighbors. We share book recommendations at the water cooler, over the fence or over e-mail. These exchanges are usually random and not always pertinent to the challenges of the moment.
Some might say the same about conversations on social sites such as Facebook and MySpace. But those sites offer distinct advantages. They allow us to track our experiences over time and regularly share opinions with people with trust. Through those conversations, we have a unique opportunity to make book discovery more relevant, more exciting, more social. Imagine tapping the collective experience of the people who know you best to discover new ideas, to find the book you need at the moment you need it. How much better could we be as a people if we not only had access to all the world’s knowledge but a guide to the information most relevant to us?
That’s the world I imagine and an experience we’re building with weRead.
weRead is the social book discovery tool that Lulu acquired last year. It allows people to connect to others with similar reading interests. It uses our social graph to make book discovery and book recommendations more relevant. You’re going to be hearing more about weRead in the coming weeks — about partnerships and tools that will help connect authors and readers in new and better ways.
I would love to hear your ideas on how we can create a more compelling discovery engine.
Consider this the start of a new conversation.