HarperCollins and others have it right. The trick is to avoid inflicting videos and the rest on the unappreciative, whether they be readers or retailers. HarperCollins is making the snippets available and letting retail partners do as they choose. That’s just plain smart. While Amazon will be able use the content, so will some smaller retailers and, yes, authors, too.
So I’m a little baffled to read Tom Peters, one of my favorite librarians, attacking the snippet concept. The irony is that Peters’ Complaint happened in the ultimate stronghold of snippetry, the blogosphere. Granted, Tom was writing “Mammoth Mammonistic Snippets” for an ALA blog, but in so doing he’s made himself fodder for snippeting.
Unlike snippet critics, I don’t mind HarperCollins offering up the snippets without having a store through which you can actually buy books. You still get hyperlinks to retail partners. The message sent is, “Rather than hogging the whole show, we’ll encourage our retail partners to do the rest.” Participating retailers will be the aggregators. Like Tom, I want aggregation, which, in terms of searching for books, can spare me much aggravation. HarperCollins, far from discouraging aggregation, is making it easier for others to pull off. I doubt that HarperCollins is expecting consumers to linger forever at its site and confine purchases to HC books.
Opps for the resourceful
My big worry would be that smaller publishers won’t have the resources to compete. But then again, extras such as video snippets can cost a lot less than, say, big ads in the New York Times book review section. In fact, truly resourceful small publishers will retaliate with their own text and video snippets. What’s more, I hope that libraries will join the snippet wars and use the technology to promote good Long Tail books that haven’t yet found their audiences. In fact, a video service tells me that libraries are indeed showing interest.
What I would like from HarperCollins: At least the entire first chapters of all the snippeted books. I know. Good marketing is teasing. But it’s a cruel tease to cut off a first chapter ahead of time.
What I don’t mind from snippeters: Repros of back covers and others glitz. I don’t care if they’re pitches–they still tell me something about the actual books. Perhaps libraries shouldn’t go in as much for the glitz, but it’s certainly appropriate in a retail context.
A legitimate concern for readers: Will big publishers use snippets to exercise greater control over distribution–favoring the outlets that are less aggressive with discounts? If nothing else, what about the copyright implications?
Snippets and the issue of synchronous vs. asynchronous promotion of books: Snippets can be a great way to draw people not just to books but to discussions of them. They are asynchronous, A Good Thing since readers like to absorb content when it’s convenient to them–not when, say, an online discussion is taking place. In promoting book chats via the TeleBlog, I’ve discovered that it’s an uphill battle. People might like to participate, but their schedules get in the way, and even I have a problem–in that I find myself driven to the books that I want to read now.
Yes, I’ll continue talking up the chats. But I’d also like to see asynchronous approaches used—for example, ongoing forums, where readers can drop in and out at their own convenience and offer thoughtful remarks when they are ready to do so. The problem with interactive synchronous book “events” is that if you haven’t had time to digest the book, you feel as if you failed to do your homework.
Detail: The “Buy this book” icon in the screen shot will lead to a list of partner sites, not an actual shopping cart.
Additional thought, added August 5: Not only can multimedia snippets make library and retail sites more interesting to the general population, they can also be especially valuable for people with certain disabilities such as dyslexia and attention deficit disorder. Of course, helping one group with special needs can come at the expense of another. A site reliant on Flash, for example, will ideally offer fallbacks for the sight-impaired.