4 min read

Social networking and the publishing industry

With readers increasingly looking to the web and digital media for information search, learning and content needs, publishers have drastically expanded their business models to adapt to new and emerging trends, yet without losing sight of their core competency.

An interesting phenomena is the role social networks play in the publishing industry.

I would say that it impacts the industry in two major spheres

  1. Sales
  2. Content

Let me delve into this a little further;

Everyone has an opinion, and in the past, well that opinion was just an opinion. But today, opinions can be shared, heard and actually listened to. People share opinions about toothpaste, chocolate and well, most definitely the books they read.


A 16 year old cheerleader sitting in Austin could well be influencing your sales through her twitter profile, her facebook account or even her shared shelfari/ Amazon reading lists. That famous Harvard professor has the power to influence more than just the students he has spoken to by endorsing a particular book. Your author now has an even more powerful sales strategy that physical book signings in form of a fan page or a blog, managed from the comfort of his writing desk, saving millions of dollars that would otherwise be spent on a book tour.

Viral marketing tools like widgets that can be spread all over the web either by you, by your fans and readers or by authors enable readers to preview a sample of the book, search within the book, view the table of content or be directed to the e-commerce or retail site.

Today publishers are seeing the shift from a traditional B2B business model, where the sales cycle was incomplete without distributors and retailers. Without them, sales were more or less: nil. Publishers are surpassing these middlemen and have the option of selling directly to their readers. Today, it is relatively simple for publishers to create their own delivery platform or end user portal from where they can sell books directly to consumers. This enables them to reach readers spread over vast geographies with minimal investment. It also enables them to study reader behavior and preferences, that enables them to offer readers content chunks at lower prices, rather than the entire book which may not be if use to the reader. This could in way save them from piracy practices such as copying of books or the used textbooks market.


Today readers are influencing and creating content in more ways that one. Not only do they call the shots when it comes to exactly which part of the content they prefer, social networking allows them to share opinions with readers who have the similar interests and expertise. Professors, schools and institutions now have the option of sampling content online. Social bookmarking too gives your content more visibility
Publishers now share a one on one relationship with readers and they have the option of ready reporting tools which tells them everything, from the number of pages read, time spent on each page, number of readers of a particular book old through an institution, notes made, recommendations and opinions shared, ancillary content used. This enables them to build content that is specific to user needs, and gives users the option of buying only that part of the content that they require.

In the education and professional learning sectors, too, social networking plays a vital role in creation of content. Readers of a particular book/topic are able to network with others of similar interests and expertise which allows the learning experience to be enhanced by asking of questions, sharing of experiences and discussions.

Social networking in business has seen tremendous growth in the past few years, and its full potential, well, we’ll have to wait and watch where it takes us!