Book-as-Blog: Encouraging Reading by Posting a Chapter at a Time
I realized I haven’t picked up a book in weeks, (non-academic book, that is), but I’ve read more than my fair share of blogs in that same time. I wonder if part of the reason is the longer time commitment required by a book. This prevents it from being read quickly and keeps it forever on my wish list. If so, then how about a service that breaks down books into blog-post-sized chunks and publishes them every few days?
The idea is inspired by, — nay, stolen from — Kevin Kelly, who is reissuing his 10-yr old book as a blog (hat-tip to Seth Godin’s post on the topic). His reasons are different, though. The book is out-of-print, and is already available as a downloadable PDF from his web site. Making it available as a blog is just another way of spreading his ideas wider, which is a great idea.
But apart from that, I like the idea of chopping up a book into chapter-sized chunks and making them available to readers one at a time. Not for any economic reasons, but because attentional resources are so scarce these days. A few times during the day, I have some free time which I use to read a few blog posts. If I ever thought about picking up a book during these breaks, I wouldn’t do it, simply because of the (arguably artificial) time commitment issues it raises in my mind. But talk about a chapter-sized, or even smaller blog post, and I’d read it.
Of course, not all book content has an affordance for this kind of splicing and dicing. If it takes several minutes for a reader to re-establish context from the last blog post, the purpose is lost. Some authors would consider their books a work of art too precious(ssss) to split it up into anything smaller. That’s also the reason why bands are often reluctant to sell singles instead of entire albums (apart from the record labels preferring to sell you 9 lame tracks bundled with 1 great track for $10 instead of $1, thank you very much.) But several non-fiction books could verily adapt to such a format.
The book-as-blog need not be free (as in no charge.) Sure, charge me for it. Implementation would be easy, charge me a micropayment and give me a secret watermarked feed URL. With so much new content licensed under a Creative Commons attribution license, it’s also possible to develop a web service that does this for liberally-licensed and public domain works. This is compatible with Creative Commons Attribution (BY), Attribution-ShareAlike (BY-SA), Attribution-Noncommercial (BY-NC), and Attribution Non-commercial Share-Alike (BY-NC-SA) licenses (but I’m not a lawyer, this is not legal advice, blah blah.)
Maybe something like this will finally get me back to the several-books-a-month club I used to be a member of, until I discovered this newfangled shiny thing called the Internet.