Monday, June 27, 2011

Why Can't I Subscribe to an Author?

What do you do when you discover a new author but you've read every book they've written?  You probably go to their website.  Maybe you subscribe to the site's RSS feed.  Perhaps they're a columnist, so you subscribe to the magazine or newspaper they write for (or maybe you just read that content for free online or you grab it's RSS feed).  If they're into Twitter you probably follow their tweet stream too.

The good news is there are quite a few options besides books if you want to keep up with what your favorite author has to say.  The bad news, IMHO, is there's no single service tying all this together.  I subscribe to way too many RSS feeds, so the result is I don't read many of them at all.  I've also been cutting back on magazine subscriptions, so I'm losing that option as well.  And even though I use TweetDeck to help split up the various groups of people I'm following (e.g., colleagues, publishing industry people, sports figures, etc.), I never find myself going from one tool to the next for a particular author.

Here's what I'm talking about: I used to subscribe to The New York Times on my Kindle.  I did so, not because it was my news source, but because I enjoyed getting the latest articles from my favorite columnists including Thomas Friedman.  When I dumped the subscription I realized I wasn't subscribing to The New York Times; I was subscribing to Thomas Friedman (and a few other columnists).  Steve Rushin is another example.  Steve stopped writing for Sports Illustrated years ago but he's active on Twitter.  I follow him there and I even have "Steve Rushin" set up as a constant search on Google News.  (Yes, I'm that big of a fan!)  So I have to check in on Twitter every so often and then look in my Google News tab to see if there's anything recent from him.  What a waste of time and effort.

Why not just have an author feed subscription via the Kindle?  Yes, Amazon sells blog feed subscriptions, but that's a ripoff and I'm looking for more.  I don't want something I can get via an RSS reader for free.  I want a combined feed of the author's blog, their Twitter activity and any publication/website they write for.  All in one.  I'd be willing to pay a modest amount for this ($10/year?), at least for the 4 or 5 authors I care most about.  And heck, go ahead and include some advertisements in it if necessary.

This is all about the convenience of having everything from one author in one source, automatically pushed to my Kindle (via WiFi) on a regular basis.  It seems like an opportunity for Amazon to extend the Kindle's functionality as well as a terrific way for authors to engage with their readers.  On top of all that, it's a great way for authors to let their fans know when their next book is coming, perhaps give them a preview or even a loyalty discount.