At the weekend we were startled to find that Jonathan Ross had a stunningly good idea. An idea that should have occurred to us sooner. Wossy, who twitters a lot, thought about starting a book club and one of the books he mentioned for his wheeze was the Bloomsbury book, Kate Summerscale’s, The Suspicions of Mr Whicher. This mention alerted us because that is one of the titles in the Bloomsbury Library offering that uses the Exact Editions platform. One of my colleagues either follows wossy, or has a Google Alert out for Mr Whicher: not completely sure which, er….

If you do not live in the UK, you may not know too much about Jonathan Ross. But you can tell he has quite a hold on his audience when you see that his crowd of Twitter followers exceeds 250K. How then should a Twitter book club work? Well it could simply be a stream of tweets about a particular book and wossy has pushed off with one already. The Men Who Start at Goats. Follow the conversation here.

A good idea which could be even better. Here are our suggestions for how this could evolve into a commercial proposition for someone:

  1. A celebrity chooses the book and each book gets a week of attention. Wossy has done this bit
  2. Wossy needs to persuade the publisher (and the author or agent, if they need persuading) that this is a good idea and put the book on Open Access for a week whilst the Twitter stream goes to full volume. While this happens the book will get a lot of attention. In the shops. The Open Access platform might be a streaming solution such as Exact Editions runs, so the taps can be switched on at the start of the week and off at the end. (If any agent thinks that putting a book on open access for a week is going to exhaust the market for his book, he needs to find another profession, or another author).
  3. Not to beat about the bush (pulling the light from out of the bushel), there is another big advantage of using the Exact Editions platform in a promotional event such as this: every page in the books can be the subject of a direct link. Tweets can cite the books as they appear in the discussion. This type of public conversation really needs a method of targetting specific pages. Especially since Twitter is not going to have the space to allow real hand-crafted, cut and pasted, quotations. (Light goes back behind bushel, muttering that any distribution system for this idea, also has to handle the e-commerce).
  4. After the week of tweeting and general discussion, the Open Access finishes but the printed book can of course be acquired through the bookshops, or a digital subscription to it taken out through the digital platform.
  5. At this point some costs have been incurred and a slice of revenue would be earmarked by the distribution and e-commerce platform (bushel smiles). For the sake of argument a Scribd type of percentage might be enough.
  6. That still leaves the majority of the revenue from this exercise which clearly goes to the publisher and the author.

Why are we broadcasting this idea in public, rather than gently sidling up to Wossy, or Stephen Fry or Oprah or whoever, with an NDA in our fists, and persuading them to do it? Mostly because NDA’s seem such an untwitterish way to think about it!

Perhaps someone has a better idea. At any rate there is no copyright in ideas, and not much of a copyright in twitter streams: so if there is a better idea about the twitter book club it has our blessing. Meanwhile, if anyone wants to bounce the idea back at us, we look forward to hatching plans with publishers, agents, Oprah, Stephen Fry, the Real Shaq, or whoever. Let’s see it working…. Twitter is good for books.