Lean Publishing and the Future Of Books

I’m very taken by some of the ideas behind lean publishing.  The idea is simple – start writing a book, and when you’ve got something written (it doesn’t have to be much – or indeed good) start selling it via leanpub.com.  As time goes by you add to your book – either more information you’ve wanted to add, or in response to comments from readers.  You submit these updates, and all your books purchasers can access them straight away.  You also have complete control over book price, so you can raise the price as your book grows.

Leanpub also provide some technically very neat tools for converting your book to different ebook formats – but thats by the by.  Its more about the idea.

What leanpub lacks is the ability to sell your book for a trivial amount of money (say 1 cent) – this is probably an effect of the costs of payment processing… but its a shame, almost anyone could write a book worth 1 cent – by the time you reach 99 cents, you start needing higher quality.  They also lack the tools to keep engaged with the reader – not just by providing updates, you understand, but by having in depth conversations – I’m thinking the ideal leanpub type site would have a blog, a wiki and a forum system all built in.

I’ve wondered if you could go even further with books than this. In the same sense that the ideal TV program is now an app, perhaps the ideal book is too.

I’m talking about lots of things… if I’m reading my book on a computer, then I want references to webpages to be hyperlinks, and references to other books to take me to the right place on amazon.  But I want more – maybe I should get a discussion forum built in (possibly even a forum which knows how far I’ve got into the book to stop spoilers).  Maybe I should be able to shop for books the author recommends.  Does the author do occasional interviews about this book?  Then his podcast could be included too.

I’ve also long had a soft spot for sites like dailylit.com which give you chunks of books every day, either by email or RSS.  Something about this form of serialisation of books seems ideal to be for young adult reading… perhaps in a long series like Twilight or Happy Potter you would subscribe to a book, getting new stories as time moves on.

Of course, all these ideas could begin with writing via LeanPub – because all leanpub use for writing is markdown formatted text – and, once you had amassed sufficient text, if my ideas are right, there will be people out there who have written the app frameworks for the sort of ideas i’m talking about, and will be willing to let you use them in return for a cut in the profits – just like LeanPub do with their ebook update offering.

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