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A while ago I gave a talk at the “Frankfurt Digital Night” at this year’s Frankfurt Book fair, making essentially three points: first, publishing requires – and has always required – to create and court communities of readers. Second, there are new digital tools emerging for creating and courting these communities. Third, in this context, openness in terms of APIs is becoming a feature.

Even long before the advent of the internet, probably even before the invention of the printing press with movable type, publishing was essentially a social network business, with strong network effects. The Matthew Principle lies at the heart of the dynamics leading to bestsellers: „For unto every one that hath shall be given.” – what is popular becomes even more popular. And the reason is that the utility –  the reading pleasure – of the individual reader not only depends on how well written a book is, but also on whether he or she is able to share this experience with others.

Paradoxically, reading books combines solipstic and social practices. From a publisher‘s perspective, the social aspect is probably much more important than the solipsistic one. Because sharing the joy of reading a certain book makes others buy and read the book as well. And all bestsellers in the history – from the Gutenberg Bible over Harry Potter to Shades of Grey – were to some degree viral, rooting in social practices related to reading a book.

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The Book

Governance across borders: transnational fields and transversal themes. Leonhard Dobusch, Philip Mader and Sigrid Quack (eds.), 2013, epubli publishers.
November 2012
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