You could hardly find somebody standing nearer to the center of the intersection of “discoverability” and “know thy consumer” than Dan Franklin.
As Digital Publisher to the Penguin Random House empire, he has responsibilities with the Vintage, Penguin General, Cornerstone and Penguin Press divisions. He could be forgiven for needing something of a map to get around PRH’s new My Independent Bookshop:
Have you seen it yet? @MyIndieBookshop, as it’s known on Twitter, is a colorful, robust promenade of book discoverability in which participants create their own bookshops of favorite reads. They also send percentages of sales to actual stores they choose to support.
Click on Author Street under “Browse one of our curated streets.” Who do you run into? Our friend and colleague, author Nick Harkaway, whose own Bewilderment Shop (“Books To Get Lost In”) is supporting one of my favorites IRL (in real life), Mr. B’s Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath (and Harkaway includes William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition, good choice).
The goal here, other than support for bookshops, obviously, is that word you hear all over the discoverability realm, “serendipity.” And, yes, we hear it from Franklin:
Curiously, once you explore the site a bit, you pick up on what Franklin calls “intimate showcasing.” My Independent Bookshop allows for personal-interest niches to arrive as collections of titles on display. For example, look into Alex Taylor’s store, Wartime Stories for the Classroom. It’s in Children’s Books Street and offers a “powerful perspective on war from the First World War trenches to the refugee camps in Zimbabwe.” Near the bottom, you can ask Taylor for another recommendation…here be interactivity, digital readers.
Our former Bookseller colleague (now with HarperCollins) Sam Missingham drops in on our interview to ask Franklin:
Franklin, nothing if not a good traffic director in that intersection, gamely fields the question:
This means that the guy in the intersection may have to dodge some traffic. Even as we have our #PorterMeets chat, bookseller Thomas Koed’s blog post, A rash word of caution, is published with its skepticism on its sleeve:
“PRH might appear to be making a nod towards the independent bookshops that have always supported them, but they are maybe more interested in getting the nod from the independents, or, rather, in ensuring that the consumer gets the impression that such nodding is going on.”
For his part, Franklin sees the My Independent Bookshop mission as a bona fide effort to bolster, not short-circuit, stores’ business:
“Widening” applies to his purview, too, as a guide on the expanding landscape of publishing’s digital roadways. He tells me that in his and his associates’ views, the “Phase 1” period of digital development was “late 2008 to 2013” and was focused on “mainstream e-book adoption, starting with Waterstones and Sony.” Today, he says, we’re past the stage of seeing digital activates as separate from the rest of publishing:
The caveat? Franklin worries, as many of us do, that we need to bring the creative-content forces along with the technology, which plays into The Bookseller’s announcement of its 14-15 June TheFutureBook Hack:
And when you’re the biggest, of course, as PRH is, you’re surrounded by impatience, people eager to see new evocations of reading and, perhaps, the more ranging digital efforts we all expect in “networked books.” Ask Franklin where all that is – and your rocket pack, too, dude -- and you’re suddenly face-to-face with an unexpected fountain of youth called mergers and acquisitions. How can we expect so much of an outfit so new?