When I was in college, my best friend and I had the idea to one day open a bookstore. Our plan was to make the bookstore a "third place" that tied in closely with the community. It would feature an event space for concerts, readings, and films. It would have a generous reading room (allowing anyone to read anything). Finally, we were going to include a rooftop cafe, again with comfortable reading nooks and ambiance.
We tentatively named the bookstore "The Cornerstone" and ironically planned to call the rooftop cafe "Groundwork."
Our ultimate goal was to help the culture we placed around reading and writing ourselves evolve to one that could be embraced by an entire community. We wanted to both bring the community in to our space and also provide a platform from which promising new storytellers could reach out into the community.
One driver of this goal was our mutual desire to write and be recognized for that writing. The other main driver was the fear with which we looked on the likes of Borders and how we felt the faceless corporation was destroying the world of books.
That the Internet has all but killed the traditional publishing industry is an irony not lost on me.
Though we never did start our bookstore, some of my favorite places in the world are still bookstores. The romantic in me sees bookstores as buildings containing countless thousands of individual universes, each reaching out to the reader and beckoning them in.
I had the opportunity to sit in a Barnes & Noble yesterday and just peruse a few books before going on with my day. It was relaxing and refreshing in a way few other activities could ever compare. I didn't buy anything because I still have a large list of reading to do at home, but jumping into parallel universes, time travel, and the minds of other people for an hour or so was amazing!
I'm a bit of a picky reader, so the books that have made it to the stack on my nightstand have jumped through quite a few hoops. Once, I bought a book, read a few chapters, and took it back to get my money back. Yes, I'm that guy. Books have special meaning for me, and I want to invest the time I spend connecting to the author's creations the best way I can.
It's this connection with reading and books that make me wary of the future currently being carved by Amazon and other digital publishers. One in which anyone can publish anything and be seen on the same level as accomplished, polished, vetted authors.
On the one hand, it empowers the voiceless to put their work out into the world, edited or not, on their own terms. On the other hand, it significantly raises the noise to signal ratio for readers seeking a compelling story.
I read an article last night on TechCrunch that proposed an intriguing way to monetize eBooks in the future - build payment into the reading platform and only request readers pay after they've finished the story. The reader in me loves the idea, and I know I would pay significantly more than sticker price for some of the best books I've read.
Ranking books on earned revenue at this point would then show which books are truly the most appreciated by readers. Success would be rewarded directly by the market rather than arbitrary advances based on reputation.
I'd love to see someone innovate on ideas like this. If they want to call the platform Cornerstone or Groundwork, I'd gladly part with the names :-)