After posting a summary of Johanna Vondeling's "top ten trends shaping the future of publishing", I am returning to each of the trends in separate posts appearing on Mondays for the balance of the summer.
Vondeling is Berrett-Koehler's vice president for international sales and business development. The eighth trend on her list, "High-value networks offer opportunity", offers examples of networks that have used the Internet to gather new and under-served audiences:
Platforms like Craigslist and eBay engage in “commons creation” by establishing virtual spaces in which strangers can pool their ideas, sell products or services, and make social connections. The platforms that can provide real value gain users (and often revenue) quickly.
We’re also witnessing a dramatic rise in the use of digital personal assistant networks such as TaskRabbit. And Amazon successfully launched Audiobook Creation Exchange, a platform that connects freelance narrators of audiobooks with owners of content who are looking to publish audiobooks.
As workers experience less job security and turn increasingly to independent and task-based employment options, such platforms provide value by leveraging the sponsor’s “right-of-way” to create credible networks that connect people seeking products and services with those eager to provide them.
I'd add LibriVox to the audiobook mix. Founded by Hugh McGuire and now hosted by the Internet Archive, LibriVox predated Amazon's offering. Volunteers use the platform to read as much or as little of a public-domain work as they choose. Files are available for download free of charge, expanding the reach for the books on the platform.
To date, recordings have been made for more than 6,000 titles, with the total number of shared files measured in tens of millions. Some popular works have seen more than a million downloads each. By design, the service is not commercial, but it is a platform that provides significant value to its users, offering public-domain audiobook content to a market that would otherwise not have it.
A bit of disclosure: Hugh McGuire conceived and co-edited Book: A Futurist's Manifesto and invited me to join him in editing the collection. Some of what I know about LibriVox comes from conversations I've had with Hugh, but he had no knowledge of or involvement with this post.