From Buyers of Books to a Community of Readers

Broadway South

Focusing on the book purchase means you get the income, but can miss out on the potential for a longer term relationship. People who read your books have opinions that they are willing and keen to share.

Choosing what to build community around is key—your brand, your authors, and your content are all important. A bold approach is to host your content and community together. Allowing readers to comment directly on your content, however, is not without risk. They may love it or they may hate it. You’ll also want to avoid spam.

There are many successes and failures in this area, plus some solid techniques to put you in the former camp. We’ll look at examples across different areas of publishing, including We’ll delve into how and why they succeeded and look at mistakes to avoid, as well as what you need to do to make your content ready for commenting. Making an XML archive is only the first part of the story.

Recognizing and valuing the individual reader is key to success in this space. The details of moderation, identity management (including OpenID), and your relationship with the community can be complex. The underlying business model needs to plan for the long term; communities take time and effort to become established. There are downsides too, like a loss of editorial control and a blurring of what “published” means.

Creating communities around content is one of the original purposes of the Internet. Your subject matter is already being discussed online, so you need to be involved, if you are not to lose out to newer competitors.

Photo of Gavin Bell

Gavin Bell

Gavin works as a consultant offering digital strategy and product origination for the web to his clients. He has worked in academia, in publishing, in advertising and as a technologist. His experience at both and previously at the BBC gave him a thorough understanding of the issues around motivating engagement and the potential for social interaction. His book, Building Social Web Applications gave him an opportunity to research how social interactions can be supported successfully online. A background in psychology leads him to a human centred approach to solving product and interaction design issues with social applications. He is a keen cyclist and lives in London with his wife and two sons. He writes on take one onion. His company website is


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