Tuesday, June 29, 2010

At the Level

The maxim is that people perform at the level they are recruited. It applies in more places than you might think. Consider the difference between blogs and books. A reader discovers a book in the book store, pays for it and takes it home. The reader discovers useful information, decides this author really knows what he is talking about and reads the rest of the book, looking for similar jewels. Another reader discovers a blog through an internet search engine and reads the same information, storing that information away, but after reading the post he clicks away.

I’ve been thinking about serialization. In Dickens’ day, serialization was a common way to present a book to readers. A magazine would print one chapter at a time, encouraging readers to come back each week or month for the next installment of the story. If the book were printed and bound, the readers might purchase the book to finish the story more quickly or to find the chapters they missed. Today, it seems like the blog would be an ideal place for a serialized novel and yet such attempts have met limited success. I suspect that the issue is the recruitment level of a blog versus a magazine.

A number of books are being offered free to Kindle owners. That cause the book downloads to increase, but it also results in a number of low starred reviews. Though it may seem ironic that people who buy the book are more likely to praise it than people who get it free, the difference in recruitment level produces different results. While we may want to believe that we know what we like when it comes to books, our attitude has an effect on our opinion of a book. Just think of all of the high school students who hate the classics because they are required to read them. If the classics suffer from that problem then we can be sure that all other books do as well.