Binge Readers are Getting Rewarded

I’m sure you’ve heard of binge watching and the insane amount of interest it’s getting from the TV industry, leading to whole series being released at once so we can all satisfy our need to know everything in one hungover day of marathoning. I know I binge watch all the time, but am indifferent about the concept. I’ll do it, but I’m not going to get upset if I have to wait a week to see the next episode of something. I find that I can better remember what happened in a series if I only have a summer break rather than having to wait almost a year after marathoning to get the next season. Still, I like binging. And I think most people who like to absorb entertainment do. We’re all toddlers, wanting what we want now, NOW, NOW!

I do the same thing with books, except I’m not indifferent on the release time. I get impatient, antsy, mad, etc. if I know the next book in a series won’t be released for another year (or, heaven forbid, if it will be released at all, which is something fans of George R. R. Martin are worrying about). I also forget. While I put the next book in my Goodreads TBR list, that doesn’t necessarily mean that I’ll remember to pick it up when it finally gets released. Or that I’ll remember what happened in the last book. I read 50-60 books a year. And that doesn’t count the plethora of other information/entertainment that my brain sponges up. Movies, internet articles, news stories, life happenings. It’s all a lot to keep in my head meat for extended periods of time. And who has time this day in age to reread a series filled with 400-500 page books every time a new one comes out, just so you can remember a few minute details that might show up with more significance later? Not I. 

The publishing industry is taking notice of readers’ angst and/or excitement, and indulging us. They’re now looking into releasing series in rapid fire, sometimes just a week apart. Hooray, I say. [If you want more information, see this article from the NYT]

There seems to be some worry about hype and name recognition for these books. If word of mouth doesn’t get around quick enough, the books won’t sell, etc. I’m not sure where that’s going to go, but I will say that the new trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer [Annihilation, Authority, Acceptance, all released a few months apart this year] doesn’t seem to have much of a problem with getting noticed. It seems like these books have been shoved down my throat for the past several months. And, like the good little consumer I am, I’m in the process of reading them. [Look for a review of Annihilation in a future post.] There’s also worry about over-saturation in the market. Nobody wants to be flooded with twenty books of the Stephanie Plum series at once (depending on your reading preferences, you might not want to see this series ever).

I think, as with everything, there’s going to be a trick to which ones get released quickly and which ones get the traditional treatment. Shorter trilogies, mind bending books, and certain genres would work well for this, in my opinion. VanderMeer’s books are short. Like almost novella short. Which is probably why he’s seeing success with them. (They’re also a bit mind bending.) Other rapid fire releases seem to be aimed at erotica/romance, which tend to also be quick reads. Science fiction seems to attract this type of release schedule as well, most likely because the reader gets fully immersed in the world in the first one, and it’s not always so easy to sink back into a world when you’ve left it (All the details of how the world works, the politics, the physics. It can be a bit much.). Then there’s the unanswered questions issue. The curiosity, the confusion. The edge-of-your-seat stuff. You don’t want the let down at the end. How many of us watched LOST week by week, only to be ticked off at the end of the hour? I’m sure the folks who marathoned it on Netflix had an easier time with it. [The editor for VanderMeer’s books says he saw that the books posed lots of questions that weren’t answered right away. He didn’t want to aggravate readers by making them wait. And good for him, because I probably wouldn’t be moving on to the second in the series if I knew I’d have to wait a year.]

So what do you think about this new publishing strategy? Do you like the anticipation, or are you a need-it-now kind of person?


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