Sunday, July 08, 2007

How to pick book winner? Ask the experts, the readers!

From the New Yorker, the experiment of Simon and Schuster of picking the next big book, ask the public.

They are planning to shop the manuscript around and have the readers vote on what books should be published. Will this lead to better books? Or will it further homogenize our reading culture? Libraries depend highly on publishers to get good books their public wants to read and publishers are often failing to produce good books. The article even states that book production can be losing venture.

"Yet even the idea’s critics recognized that it was a response to a real problem: most books today are not economically successful, which means that much of the time and money that publishers invest in projects is wasted."

I remember when James Patterson's Big Bad Wolf came out. We expected to have multiple holds for it, however, once they came in, they didn't move. Furthermore, we received more donations of that book than any book we have ever had. All the signs that no one liked the book.

The Science of Success: Financial Page: The New Yorker:

"The collective intelligence of consumers isn’t perfect—it’s just better than other forecasting tools. The catch is that to get good answers from consumers you need to ask the right kinds of questions; asking the market to predict how many copies a book will sell, which requires predicting how a wide readership will behave, is better than asking the market to predict which manuscript will get a book deal, which requires predicting the decisions of a small number of editors. (The Simon & Schuster experiment with MediaPredict, unfortunately, focuses more on the latter.) And you need a critical mass of people to participate. It’ll take a while to work out the kinks, but in the long run these markets are tools that few media companies can afford to ignore. Nobody knows anything. But everybody, it turns out, may know something."

Library patrons are often the best critics of the latest books. I wonder if libraries could use their patron base to make an idea like this work?

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