Network member Marianne’s new book (published by Palgrave) promises to provide a wonderful insight into new forms of engagement with readers in the digital age. The book is especially concerned with readers of YA fiction. I’ve already ordered it in for our library, and plan to use it on one of my modules next year. Congratulations, Marianne.
Prior to the expansion of digital technologies around reading, teachers, parents, and librarians were the primary gatekeepers responsible for getting books into the hands of young people, and researching readers was an elusive process. But a combination of convergence in the publishing industry and the development of new digital technologies around reading have enabled publishers to create disintermediated digital enclosures in which they can communicate directly with their reading audience. Access to their favorite authors attracts teen readers to the sites, where they are encouraged to participate via quizzes and games, to act as peer-to-peer reviewers and marketers, and even to have an authorial role as content creators or contributors. Within these online collaborative communities around reading, the construct of Iser’s (1974) largely invisible “implied reader” is replaced by a visible and vocal reading audience. By examining three progressive case studies of reading-related websites for young people: Random Buzzers.com, which is Random House’s interactive website for teen readers; The Twilight Saga.com (based on the books in the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer); and The Amanda Project.com as evidence of such visible audiences, this book exposes how teens contribute their immaterial and affective labor as they engage in participatory reading experiences via publishers’ and authors’ interactive websites and use of social media, and how in turn publishers are able to exploit such labor as they get invaluable market research, peer-to-peer recommendations, and even content which can be used in other projects—all virtually free-of-charge. As online environments enable new means for young adults to participate in the books they love, this book demonstrates how the roles of “author,” “marketer,” and “reviewer” are being redefined, and present a 21st century configuration within the field of cultural production for young people.
Bio: Marianne Martens, Ph.D. is Assistant Professor at Kent State University’s School of Library and Information Science (SLIS). Her research covers the interconnected fields of youth services librarianship and publishing. Previously, she was vice president of North-South Books in New York. Martens is currently working on a book about J.K. Rowling’s Pottermore fan site. You can read more about her work at mariannemartens.org.