A unique take on publishing: Sam Rennie interview


Sam Rennie founded Readership in 2014. Readership is a reader-generated publishing company where booklovers decide what is published. Here Stephanie Cox interviews Sam about the concept and the success of the company so far.

1. Please introduce us to Readership! How does it work?

Readership is a publishing company controlled by readers. We let them decide what we publish. But, more than that, our goal is to build a community that effectively becomes a company by the people and for the people. We want to be a publishing company that the reading world wants. We also want to let them have more control than the typical user may have with a company. Any changes to our website, what features to prioritise, what services should be added to the company, and so on. It seems like something that would sit naturally in the digital age, because modern technology lets users tell the world what they want, and even lets them help create it, which is obviously vastly different to the age before, where industries basically told their audiences “These are your choices.” etc.

2. Your company obviously embraces all things digital. Do you see this as the end of the print book or rather an extension of it?

I don’t think the physical book is going anywhere. I wouldn’t be surprised if it went the way of the vinyl record. Quite a few people, if they’re really into their music, will collect records of their favourite albums, and just have mp3s of the ones they’re not as in love with. The benefits are obviously that physical records make for a nicer, more aesthetically-pleasing collection. So I can see that happening with books. Because of the endless digitisation of content now, people may be more aware of what books they buy physically, knowing that it’s going to take up space on their shelf. (Similarly, I am perfectly content having film and TV content on my Netflix library, but if I watch a film or TV show I like then I’d be inclined to buy a DVD/boxset of it to add to my physical collection.) Neil Gaiman said years ago, at the Digital Minds conference I believe, that there needs to be a re-emergence of the fetishization of the physical book – to make it something noteworthy to hold – which I think publishers have done well with. But I’m not sure it’s something that’s applicable to every book that’s published. Maybe our approach (digital first, but with the open-mindedness to embrace physical copies when we can do something noteworthy with them) is the way for most new publications.

3. Your site states: “To compete with the multi-faceted nature of the entertainment industry – particularly with online content – Readership also provides authors with the space to upload any audio or video content they’ve created which they feel complements their writing.” To what extent do you agree with the view that publishing is now a multi-channel function? Why is it important for you as a publisher to offer these additional services as well as traditional publishing?

I think if you want to appeal to people who don’t read as often as the industry would like, then you need to extend your content into different channels and mediums. That’s why we’re excited about the Minecraft world of writing we’re creating here.

To read more of the interview, head over to Stephanie’s blog: Words are my Craft

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