Book Fans Get A Widget of Their Own

Here’s an interesting effort to make books — you know those things with covers and pages inside and no bits or bytes included? — sexy to social networking kids. HarperCollins had announced:

an innovative campaign to promote titles online through its digital warehouse. The Browse Inside widget enables fans and authors to embed sample pages of their favorite books directly onto social networking sites and blogs, marking the first time a syndicated reader for books has been available online.

“The Browse Inside widget is the most recent marketing tool we have developed using the capabilities of our digital warehouse to market our titles to the MySpace generation online,” said Brian Murray, Group President, HarperCollins. “We are extending our reach beyond the HarperCollins site to where many potential book buyers visit – on social communities, blogs or author sites.”

The widget provides simple code that can be copied and placed on a profile or blog. Currently, the standard browsable sample pages that are available include the covers, front matter, back matter and first three pages of chapters one and two.

“The Browse Inside widget – when spread through online communities – is today’s equivalent of picking up a book off of a friend’s coffee table and glancing through it,” said Josh Kilmer-Purcell, New York Times bestselling author of I Am Not Myself These Days (Harper Perennial). “It’s my electronic calling card to online communities.”

To harken back to the Robinson study about time use I mentioned the other day, it does seem that internet users in general do read more than people who don’t use the internet, but whether the “MySpace generation” is yearning for a book widget, I don’t know, but I bet enough are to make it at least interesting. With the HUGE exception of fans writing fan fiction based on books (Harry Who?), and the odd blogger blogging books, it has always seemed to me that print publishing has not made good inroads into the online communities of internet users. The basic principles of going where the buyers are rather than waiting for them to come to you and giving the people already into what you do the tools to tell others about it in engaging ways is certainly right on, but whether this will be the viral electronic calling card they hope for or just a cute gizmo for a few die-hards remains to be seen.

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