Big Ideas, Little Books

Do you still read books? This long-standing entertainment medium doesn’t really fit into the social media generation’s understanding of entertainment. They aren’t quick to consume. With the exception of people who have Kindles, they aren’t readily available no matter what device you are logged into. And they aren’t visually stimulating (without the use of your imagination). So can book writers break into the social media generation? James Patterson is giving it a go!

James Patterson

James Patterson is one of the most popular thriller authors. Having published 156 books and sold more than 325 million copies worldwide, he is certainly an influential writer. However, off the back of a Pew Research Centre survey released in 2015, it has been discovered that 27% of American adults (so probably a similar percentage across other American-inspired countries) haven’t read a book in the past year. And, despite his significant existing market share, James Patterson wants to tap into these potential consumers.

How?

By bringing books in line with the social media generation’s idea of entertainment.

Over the next year, James Patterson will aim to produce two to four books each month that are less than 150-pages, cheaper than the normal literary investment, more plot-driven and more widely available. ‘You can race through these – they’re like reading a movie’ he said during a recent interview. But in addition to the changes in the physical book itself, the aim is also to distribute these novellas through less traditional channels which are more accessible without the specific aim of dropping into a book store citing supermarkets and chemists as some of the possible retain chains.

This is certainly a step in the right direction if the book industry wants to remain relevant, but is this step far enough? I don’t know about you, but I find traditional news articles even too long to become invested in. There is the constant promise on the internet of an endless supply of new news (thank for conditioning us, Facebook) and any article that can’t be distilled into a cool infographic or a couple of key points feels too long for me. And then there is the imagination element, not much is left to the imagination anymore. We like to consume endless YouTube videos, live streams, television shows, movies. Even our text-based social media options (e.g. Twitter) are struggling to attract audiences against the more visual platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat.

This will be a great experiment to see if books can transfer to millennials who are used to consuming information in 5 or 10 second snapshots. I certainly would like to get back into reading without having to commit to a 400+ page tome and this product feels like it has been designed just for me. But will it transfer readers over to the longer novels? I don’t know about that. My feeling is that it will create a completely new market for short and accessible literature.

Time will tell whether this category expansion will work . . . but hopefully James Patterson’s star power name will be enough to get this idea off the ground and into the hands of millennials across the world!

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