Kassia Krozser - Publishing is Content: What do Readers Want?

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Kassia Krozser introduces the theme "Publishing is Content".

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  • What Do Readers Want? Without readers there wouldn't be a publishing industry. There would be no one to buy your books. Yet reader voices are often missing from conversations about, well, readers. So I appreciate the opportunity to talk to you about what readers want from all of you. Yes, it is arrogant to speak for all readers because we all have different reading lives. What is true for me may not be true for another reader. But I think I do have pretty strong credentials in this area. I don't remember learning *to* read, but I do remember the moment I realized I knew *how* to read...
  • Portrait of a Young Reader There is no way my mother could have guessed this note to my teacher would change my life. As I walked to school that day, I connected the markings on the paper with the conversation I'd had with my mother. This wasn't random scribbling; these were words, arranged in a particular order, into information. I'd unlocked the secret of the universe! From that moment, I was addicted to reading. My idea of "playing outside" was reading on the porch. I faked being sick so I could stay home and read. I wandered through my school library, checking to make sure my favorite books were in their proper places.
  • (Image of piles of books) Before long, I discovered the beauty of buying books. In my lifetime, I've bought an obscene number of books. I'm sure you understand when I say I dread conversations that start with "We need to do something about your books..."
  • The Digital Revolution was Tailor-Made for Me Remember the articles that said "nobody will ever read on a screen?" I read every one of them. On a screen. In between the ebooks I read on my 1998-era computer monitor. I embraced, then abandoned the Rocket eBook. It was too much work. This made me skeptical about the Kindle. Until I realized it was my constant companion. It replaced books hidden in the trunk of my car, my purse, my computer bag, the bathroom, my office, my desk... my Kindle allowed me to carry a library everywhere I went. And it allowed me to carry a bookstore in my hands. You see, readers like me live in fear of only one thing: being caught somewhere without a book. We can be hanging by our fingernails from a cliff, but as long as we have a book, we're cool. As I bought and read digital books, I felt smug. I was the vision of the modern reader. I had an eink device!
  • The truth was I'd shifted from linear, text-based reading to linear, text-based reading. This wasn't much of a Great Leap Forward. In my defense, I primarily read narrative fiction. The Kindle and devices like it are perfect for the way I read.. This is why I laugh when pundits predict the death of eInk devices. Clearly they don't get the market for these devices: readers like me. We don't want video and email and bells and whistles while we read. We don't want to be victims of glaring sunshine. We just want to read. And when we finish one book, we want to start the next. Without delays.
  • In which Kassia does some soul-searching... As happy as my Kindle made me --and there is no question the Kindle ecosystem is designed to make readers very happy -- I was lying to myself about my reading life. With my schedule, sometimes I go days without picking up my device, except to transfer it from purse to kitchen counter and back again. So, I dug deep into my soul to discover how I really read in this modern world.
  • First and foremost, there is no right way to read, and if we try to define one, a great many people will be eliminated because they don't fit our perception of "readers" and "reading". Readers do not read the way most of us assume they do. I read my first words of the day around five in the morning, usually tweets or a quick scan of email. I read audiobooks while walking about six miles. I read news, Facebook, Twitter, more news, and email before I head off to work. I read contracts and do online research all day long. And news is always streaming in the background. The truth is, the vast majority of my reading is non- fiction, hyperlinked, information-based, and spread over a variety of applications, many of which are not considered *reading* systems. I use the web for reading far more than I use my reader or reading apps. Not surprisingly, this is true for a large number of people I know.
  • (Image of magazines) In the print world, I read magazines. Digital magazines are *not* reader-friendly. As you can see, I read a lot of magazines. Sometimes, in our digital publishing bubble, we forget how large the print market is. We also forget that many "print" readers are really hybrid readers, reading online far more than they, or we, realize. Take a walk around your office to see what I mean. We're living in world of all-of-the-above reading choices. There is no one-size-fits-all reader.
  • The Platonic Reader Problem However, when the publishing industry talks about readers -- and they don't talk about them all that much -- they talk about an idealized reader, the Platonic Reader. The Platonic Reader is amazing. She is on top of every aspect of literary culture. She knows publisher release schedules better than they do. She reads the right books at the right time. She has time to attend signings and author events. She reads a book a day, if not more. This idealized reader exists mostly in marketing meetings.
  • Real readers aren't like that Out here, in the real world, readers have messy, hard-to-categorize reading lives. I have a friend who just finished the big book from the summer of 2009. I know people who consider finishing a book a *year* an accomplishment. And they certainly don't pay attention to what's new on the shelves...unless they happen to be book shopping that day. Real readers find reading material in a patchwork of ways: websites, co-workers, friends, radio, articles, Twitter, complete strangers. They're as likely to be reading what their kids are reading as they are a grown-up novel. And, unless my math is wrong, more books are sold to real readers than Platonic Readers. But I'm generalizing, aren't I? What is a real reader?
  • Which reader are you creating products for? When I said I was arrogant in speaking for all readers, it's because *my* readers always make it clear that I can't generalize about them. And when you focus on readers, ask yourself: what do I mean by "reader"?
  • The Platonic Reader Are you aiming for this perfect but rare reader? And, what are you offering him? How do you make literary life even better? Or perhaps...
  • The Vacation Reader You want to target the vacation or infrequent reader. She purchases, maybe, one to two books a year...unless she borrows a best seller from her best friend. What can you offer to entice her to give your books, your apps a try? Then again, there's...
  • The Beginning Reader This is my favorite reader because of the huge possibilities and chance for creativity. The opportunity to create useful, innovative educational materials is huge. It's not just kids who fit into this category. We live in a world where literacy rates are less than optimal. We live in a world where people want to read in their non-native languages. Where people want to learn new things. When I think about it, I see opportunity everywhere for educational reading materials, for all kinds of readers. But, what about...
  • The Audiobook Reader Maybe it's because I live in Los Angeles, but many people I know only read audiobooks. Mothers whose only reading time is while she's sitting in traffic on the freeway. Runners who find getting lost in a story the best way to forget the long miles ? Someone who prefers to hear the story rather than read the story. These readers have a different relationship with stories: they have favorite readers in addition to favorite authors, strong feelings about abridged versus unabridged works, and challenges when it comes to storing lots of files. I could go on for hours about the different types of readers out there, but I think you get the point. However, I do want you to consider one more reader...
  • The Vision-Impaired Reader Blind, partially sighted, and low vision people are avid readers, of books and the web. This particular reader uses a combination of technologies, including audio, to engage with the web. Also consider other types of disabilities, such as deafness and mobility impairment. People love ebooks because they simply cannot hold a print book. Developers who focus in accessibility issues make an inherently more reader-friendly product...which means they have an inherently larger market. How does your product meet the needs of this type of reader? Now to get to the key question:
  • Which reader are you creating products for? When I said I was arrogant in speaking for all readers, it's because *my* readers always make it clear that I can't generalize about them. And when you focus on readers, ask yourself: what do I mean by "reader"?
  • (Image of unicorn) As you may guess from my brief profile of readers, the answer to this question isn't easy. Still, I think there are a few things all readers have in common:
  • Useful content that solves a problem When I was a kid, if I didn't have a book, I read cereal boxes. Over and over sometimes. Most of people, however, read because they are trying to fulfill a specific goal or need. For example, when I seek out non-fiction, I usually want something that focuses on a specific problem.
  • (Image: robot invasion) I am not alone. How-to manuals will never go out of style, yet how they let me access information is critical to their usefulness. This isn't a book I want to wait three days for delivery. And even though I read constantly, I still have reading moods that must be addressed.
  • For example, trying to master cooking Indian food or knit a specific pattern. Others might be studying for a test or seeking the right vacation destination. But enough with the serious stuff. What about when I'm wanting to get away from it all?
  • (Image: gut-wrenching) Where do I want to be taken emotionally? Am I in the mood for an intellectual challenge? A mystery? Do I need something light to counterbalance a rough day? Heck, I have certain books I reread simply because I'm in the mood for a good cry. And beyond the books, articles, and words, readers want...
  • Good Metadata Let me be clear: the average reader doesn't say, "Get me some of that good metadata." The average reader expects good metadata to be part of their discovery, buying, reading, and post-reading experience, even if the reader doesn't know the metadata is there. Instead of talking about the technical aspects of metadata, I'm going to talk about how this metadata works from a reader's perspective.
  • How publishers think about metadata To be fair, publishers are starting to add creative metadata to their book files, but, generally, they see metadata as information to move a book through retail channels. This means making sure the various codes to ensure a successful commercial transaction are accurate. That is only one aspect of metadata. Metadata is not a data dump. It's a way of connecting the right book with the right reader. It aids discovery and ultimately sales. You want better metadata? Think like a reader? A real reader, not your idealized view of the platonic reader.
  • How readers think about metadata Readers don't know ISBN numbers. They don't know publishers. They have no idea what a BISAC code is. Readers are often fuzzy on things like author names and titles. Sometimes, the best they can do is "it's a blue book with a woman on the cover and the character's husband died." These type of descriptions, by the way, are why librarians and booksellers rock ... they always find the right book. Because readers use real words -- their words -- to describe books, the metadata surrounding those books isn't always informative enough. Readers want to know about the actual content of the book. Describing books in the language of readers helps readers connect with books.
  • I mentioned the skills of librarians and booksellers in translating reader language into actual books to read and buy. I'll be honest: in both the physical and online worlds, the key to retaining me as a customer is how I'm treated. The easier you make it for me to buy and read books, the happier I am. I'm a Kindle owner who happily buys direct from other retailers. I do so because they make it easy to buy their books...and to read their books. I feel like I am valued as a customer. I respond with repeat business, even though Amazon has some built-in advantages. Treat me as a valued customer, and I will give you lots of money. It's that simple.
  • Innovation As I mentioned, my vision of my reading life was vastly different than the reality of my reading life. What would my five-year old self think if she were learning to read in today's world? Luckily, I have opportunity to discover the answer to this question.
  • My niece, age almost two, is going to take after me -- lousy at sports, amazing at reading. She won't have the same experiences I did. She won't randomly pull encyclopedias from the shelf. She won't page through thick reference books published twenty years ago. Her dictionaries will include up-to-date words and usage. Information will be linked, searchable, accessible, current, and ubiquitous. The idea of outdated information will confuse her. For her, reading will mean eyes, ears, touch, taps, swipes. It will be, in many instances, multi-media. That doesn't mean she won't curl up in the couch with a good book, but it does mean her idea of what this means will be different than mine. She will likely engage in participatory storytelling, becoming as much a creator as consumer.
  • I cannot count the number of new book-related services I've seen over the years. So many great ideas, so many passionate people. So many failed projects. There are many reasons for this, and I'm going to offer the perspective of a reader: how is this better than what I already have? If you are developing for publishers, it makes perfect sense to focus on their needs and requirements. If you are developing for readers, focus entirely on their needs, and figure out who the readers you're targeting are. Why do I need your discovery service? Your reading app? Your social network thing? How is *my* life as a reader made better? This is the question you have to answer, and if you don't, I'll stick with what I have.
  • The longer I live my life online, the more I realize what a disservice it does readers to force certain content into book format. There is no question that the web has changed our relationship with information and research. There is so much bookish that remains locked in books, and forcing readers to conform to your vision of how they should access information is simply an invitation for them to find what they need elsewhere.
  • This book is a good example. I travel a lot, so was curious about this book. Content like this is dynamic -- restaurants come and go rapidly. Gluten-free menus change frequently. The moment the book is printed, it's out-of-date. It took me less than a minute to realize a printed, bound book was least logical way to interact with the information. I've used this book once, as a research tool for a friend. It makes no sense to me. It should be a website. An app. Both. I need searchable, dynamic content with the ability to easily communicate new information to the editors. I rely on the web, which is actually a less efficient way to find this information easily because there is *so much* out there, because I cannot pay for specialized information I need in the format I need.
  • I have a weird problem: I don't like free books. I like to pay for them. Readers are happy to pay for content. All they ask is the content they purchase have value to them. As a digital reader, I know, far too well, the lack of quality in ebooks. Yes, things are better, but then we had the inexcusable ebook problems with the release of "A Casual Vacancy". It's not just formatting. Readers know when a book hasn't been through a rigorous editorial process. Or encountered a qualified proofreader. Or that a book that is so bad, the publisher should have said no, even if the author is a mega-seller. Often, there is other content that meets reader needs just as well as a pricey book. It doesn't matter if useful information comes from a big publisher or a pajama-wearing blogger or a self-published book. All that matters is that reader is satisfied what they've read is high-quality. That's what makes information and stories valuable, and readers will find creative alternatives if publishers don't give them what they need.
  • We are still in the early stages of what I believe is a reading revolution. Not only do we, the people in this room and people like us, have access to more stuff to read than any other generation of readers, we also have access to technology that allows us to read in new and different ways. To imagine how reading can be made even better, more accessible, more useful. To spread literacy around the globe. An older woman once asked me, " what are we supposed to call these things, these we once knew as books?" I don't know. She was ready for a new vocabulary. I am ready to be surprised by the next fifty years of reading innovation.
  • Kassia Krozser - Publishing is Content: What do Readers Want?

    1. 1. What Do Readers Want? A not-so-simple question.Cosa vogliono i lettori? Non è una domanda semplice.
    2. 2. Portrait of a Young ReaderRitratto di un Giovane
    3. 3. The digital reading revolution was tailor-made for me. La rivoluzione digitale è
    4. 4. (In which Kassia doessome soul-searching and critical self-analysis.)(Nel quale Kassia fa un esame di coscienza e autoanalisi critica.)
    5. 5. What I discovered about how I read Quello che hoscoperto di come ho letto
    6. 6. The Platonic Reader ProblemIl problema del lettore platonico
    7. 7. Real readers arent like that.I lettori reali non sono così..
    8. 8. Which reader are youcreating products for?Per quale lettore stai creando prodotti?
    9. 9. The Platonic ReaderIl Lettore Platonico
    10. 10. The Vacation Reader Il Lettore della
    11. 11. The Beginning Reader Il Giovanne Lettore
    12. 12. The Audiobook Reader Il lettore di audiolibri
    13. 13. The Vision-Impaired ReaderI l Lettore con Disabilità
    14. 14. Which reader are youcreating products for? Per quale lettore stai creando prodotti?
    15. 15. What doreaders want? (A partial list.)
    16. 16. Useful content that solves a problem or fulfills a need. Contenuto utile cherisolva un problema o soddisfi un bisogno.
    17. 17. Good MetadataBuoni Metadati
    18. 18. How Publishers Think About Metadata Come gli editori pensano ai metadati Title: The Adventurers Author: Michelle Martin Publisher: Ivy Books Year: 1996 ISBN: 044922340X BISAC: FIC027070 FICTION / Romance / Regency Cover Copy:A LIFE OF ADVENTURE SUITED HER WELL . . . UNTIL SHE WAS FACED WITH THE MOST PERILOUS GAME OF ALL: LOVE!The Earl of Northbridge was nobodys fool, but here he was lost in a sea of outrage, embarrassment--and honest perplexity. Howcould a woman masquerade as a man . . . and fool him so cleverly? Worse, how had she managed to coerce him into joining herscheme?For her part, Isabel was proud of her mastery of disguise. Now she was putting her skills to the ultimate test: She must get heryoung friend past a snare of murderous characters who mean to keep him from claiming his legacy.Only too soon did Isabel discover her greatest danger was not her enemies, but the earl himself. With his fathomless blue eyes, heseemed to see all her secrets--and there was no way she could mask that shed fallen hopelessly in love!
    19. 19. Come i lettori pensano How Readers Think About Metadata ai metadatiRegency Romance Revenge Road Romance Lost HeirCross-Dressing ScandalGreat Dialogue Humor For Readers of Out-of-PrintGeorgette Heyer
    20. 20. Innovation Novità
    21. 21. This is my niece (She also has an iPhone)Questo è mio nipote (Ha anche un iphone)
    22. 22. Context over ContainersContesto suiContenitori
    23. 23. QaulityQaulità
    24. 24. Special thanks to: Brian OLeary and Hugh McGuire forforcing me to finally write "A Reader’s Bill of Rights" for Book: A Futurist’s Manifesto (http://book.pressbooks.com/)Kirk Biglione for making me focus on the big picture Jane Litte, Sarah Wendell, and other members of my Reading Trust Circle Image Credits Woman with Headphones, Vacation Reader, Platonic Reader, Stack of Books: BigStockPhotos Jeanine with Assistive Technology - Knowbility.org (http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150738923719914&set=a.10150738800474914.426717.8258514913&ty ) Knitting Pattern: http://www.flickr.com/photos/twopinkpossums/1494796250/ Emotional Rollercoaster http://www.flickr.com/photos/jremigio/258324809/
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