I normally go wild for Snowbooks’ ideas
They tend to have huge potential, sound very exciting and generally seem to push things forward. Like Snowcase:
Hosting snippets of fiction for our visitors to read and comment on is one tiny way to explore the future and to muddy the boundary between self-publishing and the traditional approach. The puzzle, though, will come if someone signs up a great new author because of it. Will that prove we still have a place in the world of fiction or that pretty soon maybe we won’t?*
But this one just doesn’t excite me
Its called The PubBench (which is clever short hand for The Publishers Benchmarking Forum). There is much more here on the welcome page:
There’s a big difference between thinking you’re doing something wrong, and knowing that your challenges are the fault of the market. It doesn’t mean the challenges go away, but it does mean you’re more able to put things into perspective and maintain your confidence in your abilities. And when things are going well, you can judge whether that’s because of your genius or because of market forces.
And a little more on The Bookseller.
But why you ask
For one thing because it will cost £25 a year (€37.50 or so). I don’t oppose this because I don’t like people making money (if you knew me you’d know that would never be an issue). Rather I think it will act to upset the smooth working of the project.
If the idea is to share ideas, knowledge and experience then there will be two basic types of visitor: The Seeker of Knowledge and the Possessor of Knowledge. For the Seeker, the price is less of an issue if the available advice is quality. For the Possessor however there is simply no incentive to join and contribute. If the Possessor does not join and contribute then there will be no value for the Seeker and so they will not join.
And that is where the pricing issue becomes a problem. £25 is a huge cliff to climb from most people’s perspective. As Chris Anderson says:
The one cent barrier is very high. One cent tends to wall off viral effects. If you make something free, it is spontaneously distributed through word of mouth, and as you know, the Web is the world’s greatest word of mouth amplifier.**
Combined with the joining problem, if networking effects are truly being ruled out then all this will be is a closed talking shop which will not help break down the mystery that for some reason seems to surround publishing. It seems a far cry from what I would see as an ideal. Something more open and accessible like Slowfire (a vision that has yet to realise its full potential) would have been nice.
In any case I don’t wish to be too negative as I do admire the sentiment behind this move and I hope it succeeds for Emma.
Still vaguely underwhelmed
*[From Emma’s blog on the topic on The Bookseller]
**BEYOND THE BOOK – Giving It Away: Free Lunch or Unrealized Opportunity?
From the Copyright Clearance Center – http://www.beyondthebook.com
I do like this though: