Exact Editions introduced a new feature for magazine publishers in 2019: Reading Rooms. The ability to create time-limited, short term, open access to an issue of a magazine or its whole archive (see here for an explanation of how to use Reading Rooms with social media). The facility is now available to book publishers using Exact Editions and in this post we give some guidance as to how the toolset can be used with books. Each book on the platform will have its own control panel, and the publisher has access to these controls and can make as many Reading Rooms as desired with time-limited access for one hour, one day, one week, or 30 days.

Control Panel

Note that the date and time when the Reading Room will expire is shown for each option.

This is a control panel for publishers not for users. The Reading Room links will behave in a predictable way when they have been set up and since these are rather special links it is useful to have an understanding of how they work:

  • the long code in the link tells the Exact Editions system what content is to be made available and for how long the Reading Room should remain open. But this exact link has to be followed to open the Reading Room. Users sometimes suppose that they will be able to share a Reading Room’s content by copying and sharing the URLs which appear in their browser bar. Not so.
  • the long code can be ‘hidden’ behind a Bitly link and for most purposes we would recommend using Bitly to ‘shorten’ the link. The Bitly link is reassuringly brief, unlikely to be truncated; and Bitly will also give additional statistics on the usage of the link
  • Exact Editions will not collect any individuating data on usage or the users. The only data logged by Exact Editions will be the number of times a Reading Room has been opened. So publishers who wish to collect aggregated data on the usage of the book should provide Exact Editions with their Google Analytics code.
  • The links are ‘open’ in the sense that they can be used by anybody from any web browser, so the users cannot be ‘prequalified’ or ‘vetted’.
  • But the links will no longer be ‘open’ when their time is up. When the link expires no further access is possible.

A 1 hour Reading Room for The Land of the Anka Bird

A 30 day Reading Room for The Land of the Anka Bird

Reading Rooms for this blog kindly made available courtesy of Cornucopia Books The 1 hour Reading Room will certainly have expired before anyone reads this Blog, and the second link will expire on 18 December, 2020.

The Reading Rooms platform offers publishers several new promotional opportunities. Probably many more than we have yet thought of. Here are a few examples:

  1. Reading Rooms of thanks and acknowledgement to all who have helped the author to complete the book. For example 30 day Reading Rooms to a list supplied by the author
  2. Pre-review access. Any periodical or digital experts who may be expected to review or recommend the book could be sent 30 day Reading Rooms. For formal reviewers, the additional incentive of a copy of the physical book itself when the review or blog posting appears.
  3. One week Reading Rooms to be distributed via Twitter/Facebook on publication day and linked to social media themes/memes relevant to the book
  4. Post-review access. When reviews or digital notices of the book appear in periodicals or blogs, Reading Rooms to be seeded in the Twitter account of the periodical/blog in which the review has been published.
  5. Inspection Reading Room access for teachers or instructors who may want to recommend the book for class-room adoption. Sending out physical inspection copies costs a publisher c $10 a time. Reading Rooms eg for 30 days can be offered with zero expense, and the effort of a carefully crafted email .
  6. Conference temporary access. If a conference, seminar or exhibition takes place with relevance to the published book, a temporary Reading Room can be set up for the period of the conference.
  7. Sales targeted Reading Rooms with a tweet linked to a promotional code or discount for the book purchase.

Reading Rooms have great promotional force for publishers of highly visual or beautiful books as they are printed. The visual quality of a beautiful book is lost when an eBook version is produced, and some of the platforms for presenting the look-of-a-book (as it were ‘Look Inside’) are either cramped and minimal in their display, or the presentation is surrounded by adverts which detract from the experience of previewing the book. The Exact Editions platform expands to show the whole page and there is no spammy branding or ad distraction. The Reading Room can only be accessed via the Reading Room link which the publisher controls even though the book is driven by the Exact Editions platform. It will not be possible to navigate to the Reading Room by following links from https://shop.exacteditions.com In these situations the Exact Editions platform is in effect ‘white-labelling’ to present the Anka Bird book in its own terms with its own branding and with minimal surrounding clutter, but using Exact Editions servers, content engine and bandwidth.

A key aim of the Reading Room platform is that it gives publishers a degree of control over the way their books may be promoted and exhibited openly, but within defined time-limits. It offers publishers a degree of timed control over display that is similar to that offered by Google Books on the one hand, or of Amazon LookInside on the other. The primary control is that it is for the publisher to decide whether, when, for how long and how many Reading Rooms are to be fashioned. The control panel is accessed via the Publisher’s account at Exact Editions and only within the constraints offered at that page (1 hour, 1 day, 1 week etc). So the time-limits are an essential aspect of the publisher control and there is no charge to the publisher for the number of Reading Rooms created or the amount of usage they incur. But the means of distribution is also a key determinant of access, and of promotional success.

A publisher may choose to be very selective in the distribution of Reading Rooms, for example only using email to trusted advisers and experts. In that case the usage is likely to be constrained–especially if the publisher is passing the link (pre-publication) in confidence; or the publisher may choose a particularly open and viral mode of distribution: Twitter and Facebook, being standout examples. Our early experience with Reading Rooms suggests that Twitter usage tends to be rapid, and immediate. A 1 week Reading Room posted on Twitter will have most of its usage in the first 24 hours. If it is not noticed in the first day it is unlikely to be picked up later in the week; correlatively Reading Room links distributed via email or blogs will tend to have a slightly longer half-life

Reading Rooms can also be offered for Collections of books, and with such Collections, the titles are available to be read and searched individually or as part of the group. The same time-limited Reading Rooms can be produced and publishers may find this form or presentation particularly efficient and useful for trade shows, conferences and book events.