O’Reilly Media is no stranger to reader collaboration. Their first open-source initiative, Rough Cuts allowed books-in-progress to be purchased, read and commented on while still in process of being written, thus enriching the work and creating a community of dedicated readers.
Open Feedback Publishing System (OFPS), the new O’Reilly experiment, takes things a step further…manuscripts are posted online as HTML for free and everyone is able to read and comment. From labs.oreilly.com:
Manuscripts developed with OFPS sites allow the authors to publish the in-progress work as whenever they think it’s ready for public comment and then update the site with new versions as the text is improved. Authors note sections of the text that they’d like comments on (potentially down to an individual paragraph) and that allows readers on the site to comment on that particular section.
Authors get free editing and consultation, readers get sneak peeks at upcoming material and the ability to craft the final product into exactly what they want. It’s personally customized—but for the masses.
Does this work for titles beyond computer books? Fiction—probably not…but for a lot of non-fiction, especially that which falls close to how to, yes, I think so. I immediately think of the amount of work that needs to be done to test patterns or recipes for knitting or cookbooks—wouldn’t it be more effective to work with readers?
Far from underselling the product, this method (if done correctly and only for the right books) enhances value in a way that makes the complete product more, not less, likely to be purchased.