Having recently read an article about the sheer volume of online content that is available to readers online, I couldn’t help but think that in a world where information is available, free, from almost anywhere, how can we continue to charge for the content that we produce, and make sure that it provides value for our readers?
It began with the evolution of social networks. When article sharing became popular, social people found that they could read whatever they wanted, anywhere. Whether it’s a blog, a newspaper or an academic journal, the information is out there and is being shared, right now. Facebook started it, and then Twitter, and quickly there became more social networks than you can remember all at once, and more content sharing sites than you can shake a stick at.
Just like Pinterest allows you to collate images that you like and categorise them, come back to them at a later date and get inspiration for baking, interior decoration or wedding planning, there are now online reading lists which allows users to collate articles from elsewhere on the web into one big collection to read wherever and whenever. Evernote and Instapaper, for example, have a ‘read it later’ service which allows you to choose the articles that interest you and save them on your smartphone, tablet or laptop app to read when you have more time.
A new service called Readability has taken this one step further, and has created a new facility called ‘Readlists’ which enables users to create a kind of mix-tape of texts from across the web, including eBook content. There has been a big dispute between the developers of Instapaper and Readlists over whether distributing copy-written content en mass is going against the rules of fair use, and whether or not it crosses a line which could, eventually, put some real-life curators out of business. Whichever service is right or wrong is not set in stone. That is up for discussion. If Readlists is just like a text version of Pinterest, then surely that could only be a good thing as it will encourage the sharing of our eBook content.
Whatever the conclusion, and whatever the opinion, readers (particularly those who regularly use an e-Reader or read content on the internet) are fast becoming the curators of their own content. They will read what they want, where they want, and however they want. This won’t stop us on our quest in the self-publishing revolution, but we simply must make sure that if we expect a price for our work, the value must be there for the reader to see.