Serialized writing has a long history, and can be hugely popular. It is said that American fans of Charles Dickens, eager to get the latest chapter of “The Old Curiosity Shop,” lined up at the docks of New York, shouting out to the crew of a ship that had not yet come to port, “Is little Nell dead?”
What was old is new. Silicon Valley start-up JukePop has teamed up with the Santa Clara County Library (CA) to bring free, serialized econtent to its patrons. It also offers 800 complete novels. Starting from here content can be read online, or downloaded—although the downloading button/process didn’t work for me, perhaps because I’m not a local patron. Nor is it clear to me that the titles are truly integrated into the catalog. I searched for “Woman King” in the main catalog, and didn’t seem to get the Jukepop version.
Nevertheless, the award-winning library project (the Urban Library Council’s 2014 Top Innovator) is tackling three significant business problems: the high cost of today’s library ebooks, embedded Digital Rights Management, and ebook platforms that are “cumbersome and difficult.” The Jukepop model also combines various aspects of social media: readers can upvote the chapters as they come in, comment on the story as it develops, and even donate money to the author by way of encouragement.
As a tool to harness the attention and expertise of its patrons to develop new writers, the model has merit. Jukepop offers a variety of ways for authors to get started.
I do find myself wondering about a few things: a reader might start reading something, find it interesting, then find that the author bailed on it. Imagine never finding out what happened to Little Nell! And although I love the idea of a vigorous exchange between author and reader, we don’t know if it will really catch on with local patrons.
But as an experiment, it’s intriguing and promising. As Jukepop’s Jerry Fan says in the Kickstarter campaign video, indie authors “understand the power of library patrons, and want to be listed by library ebook catalogs.” That’s a breakthrough.
Because we’re still at the beginning of the revolution, there are a lot of things libraries haven’t figured out yet. How do we find out what’s good? Will this new stream of content require new processes for acquisition, cataloging, and collection management? If so (and it seems likely), how can we rapidly track and identify the most promising, emerging practices?
Moreover, there are a host of other topics worth exploring. Among them (in no particular order) are the following:
- How might libraries engage with their communities in the creation of new content?
- Who are some of the emerging authors in the area of self-publishing?
- How long is the long tail of older works? How does that affect our weeding procedures?
- What is the place of erotica in self-publishing and in library collections?
- How can or should libraries promote local, self-publishing authors?
- How should libraries budget for new streams of content from unknown sources?
- Who are the new players in aggregation and distribution of self-published content?
I would also be very interested in hearing from you, our readers, what other topics you would like to see addressed in this space.