“The project plan is about content, about the mission, about the audience that the book will have and about publicity as well. It’s not about what can we do with a printed book, rather other ways to disseminate that same knowledge. Can we work together with institutes? Can we do presentations? What is inherently dared to reach out when the book is there? What can we bring to the outside world that makes a difference? Whether big or small, but enough to make a difference.”

Astrid Vorstermans, founder of Valiz Publishing, Interview February 2019, Amsterdam.

For many publishers, the physicality of the printed book is only one way to communicate its content. In the digital marketing world, the uses of content for multiple channels is common. Expanding the content to multiple outputs can create tangent points for a wider public, initiating a new reading community. Defining the relevant community and the relevant marketing activities for them will be an important step in innitiating the market.

In this article, we will review a few existing examples that can suggest starting options for reading communities, to be developed in the following phase.

Crowd Funding.
One way to initiate a market is by getting its potential readers financially involved. A good example is the online news site “The Correspondent”, aiming for more social journalism. To keep its journalistic stories independent (meaning – no decision-making sponsors), the news site was created using crowdfunding. The initiative was presented in 2013 in the popular Dutch television program “De Wereld Draait Door”. Rob Wijnberg, one of the founders, stated that the plan to create the site would be possible if 15,000 people were willing to donate 60 euros each. By September 2018 the site had more than 60,000 subscribers. Giving the donators the feeling they are part of the creation of a product they relate to its values has raised over 2.5 million dollars(*) to its development into having an English version. 

The Correspondent website advocates a policy of independent journalistic thinking, therefore the funding of the activity is done by crowdfunding

Furthermore, the content on the site is free, and readers may pay according to their decision. Peter Bil’ak chose the same method with his ‘Works That Work’ magazine, reflecting each contribution with its worth – photography, writing, paper costs etc.

In addition to being a way to raise funding and creating PR, crowdfunding is also a useful tool for getting the first committed readers.

A Book Club.
The keynote guest at Apple’s ‘Apple TV’ launch was no other than Oprah Winfrey. Her original book club began in 1996 in her TV show ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’, discussing books of her choice. Now she is involved in setting up a digital book club for Apple, on their platforms.

It will be interesting to follow that model and look at more ways to create our own managed book club within the platform.

Community Events.

“We go to all these art book fairs, and while people think it’s just a table where you sell your books, it’s also the best way to understand what people are doing. It’s very informal, and it’s very often highly professional people who explain what they’re doing and what sort of communities they act on. It’s incredible how you incorporate that or how you remember that and can use it in the next step.”

Astrid Vorstermans, founder of Valiz Publishing, Interview February 2019, Amsterdam.

The creative publishing community does not need to be set up from scratch. It is an active and collaborative community who holds several events of many sorts yearly. Organising lectures, meetings, dedicated workshops, participating in book fares etc. can all expand the circle of the new digital reading experience.

Maximising the Content.
Even 500 years ago, it was never actually about the medium itself. The book was but a mean. A way to spread knowledge, interests, point of view. A way to share ideas with people. Print made it possible then; the new digital reading experience is all about doing that now.

Getting as many members of the publishing industry involved in creating this new way of content experiencing will create the foundation for a new digital reading community.

next article: Research Conclusions