Academic journal article Library Technology Reports

Chapter 2 Key Benefits of Free Reading Zones

Academic journal article Library Technology Reports

Chapter 2 Key Benefits of Free Reading Zones

Article excerpt

Empowering Authors, Publishers, and Readers

Since launching the FREZ initiative in the summer of 2016, I have published countless articles (1) and given numerous presentations (at live conferences and via webinars) on the impact of FREZ on society and its various sectors, particularly the book and library industry--including publishers, authors, libraries, book distributors, and all who work with books and encourage or enable dissemination of knowledge in one form or another. I have usually discussed the benefits of FREZ in the context of three distinct branches of society: culture, education, and tourism.

If we think of the book industry as belonging under the umbrella of Culture and Cultural Affairs, we can discuss the benefits of FREZ in the context of promoting arts and creativity as well as enabling reading and influencing lifestyles (e.g., people embrace the idea of reading books on their mobile devices the same way they listen to music on the go). When creating conditions that allow for digital reading of books to become the fabric of life--the way it has already become with other types of content online, including, for example, news portals and blogs--we enable more reading to take place outside the usual and expected settings, and we allow more culture to flow. Reading is no longer tied to physical objects that are carried around, and it no longer needs to be tied only to specific locations (e.g., privacy of one's home, the library). Instead, it becomes an ongoing activity that occurs whenever and wherever users want to experience it. It is, therefore, more spontaneous and more in line with today's on-the-go lifestyles.

As we've learned from the industries that have undergone digital transformations before publishing (e.g., the news industry, the music industry), the fastest (and perhaps easiest) way to get people used to consuming content in new environments (in this case, digital) is by making the content freely and easily accessible through sponsorships (think of enjoying music on YouTube or reading quality news articles online for free). While free does mean readers don't pay for the reading, that does not translate to publishers and content creators not getting their fair share. It simply means someone other than the reader is picking up the tab and doing it because that someone sees value in being part of a project that supports culture and sharing of human creativity.

A wide range of businesses and institutions support cultural endeavors of all kinds, usually orchestrated by various government entities (e.g., institutions that exist for the sole purpose of promoting literacy and education). But it is also not unusual for a bank or insurance company to sponsor a book festival or some gathering where people celebrate creativity in literature and arts. Major corporations have entire departments devoted to sponsorships of cultural events. It helps those corporations develop brands with a human face and garner sympathy, respect, and even new customers along the way. When presenting the FREZ project to potential sponsors, I emphasize what is a powerful distinction between supporting typical cultural events and supporting FREZ--the support of not only the creator (author) but also the one consuming the created (reader).

While FREZ benefits publishers, authors, and software companies because those whose work is exposed in the zones get paid through a merit-based business model, it ultimately--and above all--benefits the end user. By supporting a FREZ, the sponsor engages in an unprecedented type of sponsorship that not only helps a very small, isolated segment of the society belonging to cultural circles get the funding it needs to keep its operations running, but also helps the ultimate beneficiary, the reader, by exposing them to more culture, information, and educational content. And by helping the reader, the sponsor actually helps an entire industry because more books are discoverable in FREZ, more authors are promoted, and more opportunities are created for publishers to tap into new revenue streams. …

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