Ever get lost in a great story, and forget to notice the world outside? Once, I was so wrapped up in Gone Girl on the London tube that I completely failed to notice that I’d passed my stop at Westminster and was in fact at Waterloo. I’m not the only one to get caught up in a story on the morning commute. The weirdly endearing Instagram page ‘Hot Dudes Reading’ captures handsome New Yorkers reading on the subway, oblivious to a stranger’s sneaky smartphone camera.
Long working hours and busy lives mean less time for reading. For many, the daily commute on public transport represents a regular, twice-daily pocket of precious reading time. Readers are using the commute as a time and space to indulge in books, share suggestions and discover new titles (even if that’s just by a sneaky glance at books that others are reading). A fabulous blog called Subway Book Review shares reviews and photographs directly from commuters. The founder has said “The subway feels like a microcosm of the New York literary world. Within one car, you can find it all: self-published work, the next bestseller and beloved classics.”
Publishers have long recognized the importance of the daily commute in the reading lives of their customers. Crucially, they can use this space to market titles direct to consumers. Penguin founder Allan Lane started out by selling cheap paperbacks directly to railway travelers, seeking readers in this non-traditional reading space. Nowadays, publishers can market titles by offering them for free on public transport. Penguin Random House US have started a program offering free eBook and audiobook excerpts to Acela Express train travelers. Penguin Random House UK just partnered with taxi app Hailo to give away titles to passengers for World Book Night. Legend Press recently announced a partnership with Virgin Trains to launch and promote its newest book collection with free titles at stations. Hot Key Books boosted the success of We Were Liars by delivering copies to tube commuters in a campaign hashtagged #booksontheunderground.
Commuters represent a large and ready group of readers who are likely to see a book as a pleasant diversion on a boring journey. In turn, dozens of other commuters will see the book cover and might be intrigued. The novelty of getting a free book might also prompt readers to tell their friends and work colleagues, or post on social media. All of this creates a positive buzz around the title. It’s highly effective marketing.
So next time you get lost in a book on the train, think about the social reading space that you temporarily inhabit. And if you want people to read your book on the train, leave your book on the train.
Author: Aoife Dowling
Content Distribution Executive
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