“Widget? Embedding? What does that mean?” I honestly can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this question in the last month.
When YouTube launched their “embedding” feature in 2006, it changed the way we consume videos online. Simply put, it means that anyone can embed a YouTube video on their blog or personal website, even if they have next to no computer skills. Every YouTube video has a unique “embed code,” and when you copy and paste that code into your blog post, a YouTube video magically pops up at the other end. Now that the YouTube video has literally become embedded in internet culture, and similar embedding technologies or “widgets” have become the norm for the music and social media industries as well.
So why hasn’t the same happened in literature? Why is it that we aren’t seeing stories and novels embedded everywhere online?
We’ll come back to this question in a second.
When we founded ReadWave last year, our aim was simple: to give all writers the tools they need to build up a readership online. Last week, we launched a beta version of the ReadWave Widget, which we hope will one day become the literary equivalent of the YouTube video. Check out the beta version here.
So what are the advantages of using a widget? What’s wrong with just posting up the story directly on your website? The main advantage is that widgets create an open sharing system for your writing. Every day, millions of independent writers give away their creative writing for free on their personal websites with the aim of attracting as many readers as possible. Currently their fans can’t re-post those stories on their own blogs due to copyright law. Using a widget eliminates this copyright problem, enables anyone to post your story anywhere online without limits, and does so in a way that ensures the original writer is reaping the rewards.
Building a following
Widgets are also a great way to get followers. The ReadWave Widget is the first reading widget to allow readers to “follow” the writer directly from the widget. If a reader comes across your story online and enjoys it they can immediately connect with you and stay updated whenever you post a new story. This means that over time you’re building up a fanbase of loyal supporters. Social media integration is also an important part of developing your following. The ReadWave Widget is directly integrated with Facebook, so that your story can be automatically shared to the Facebook timelines of your fans.
The next generation of reading widgets
A few companies have already launched reading widgets, but so far none of them have had mainstream success. Part of the reason for this is that they rely on a traditional “book model”. In other words, the layout of the page is predetermined, so it feels like you’re flicking through a book online. The ReadWave Widget doesn’t have set pages in this way. It’s designed so that you can change the height or width of the widget and the text will automatically fit the space available. In short, pages are a legacy of traditional publishing and in the future we’re going to have to forget all about them.
The main reason why reading widgets haven’t had much success, however, is simply that they are not optimized for mobile. This is an area that we are hoping to look at in the near future, but as of yet there still isn’t a reading widget that works seamlessly on mobile like a YouTube video would.
Reading widgets still have a long way to go before they catch up with the film and music industries, but this doesn’t mean that they will never take off. As reading on tablets and mobile phones becomes increasingly popular, eventually reading widgets will emulate the slick user experience that video and music players currently offer.
Our own widget still has a long way to go and we hope to keep iterating on it over the next few months, but if you have any feedback, we would love to hear it. You can get in touch with me at:
rob [at] readwave.com.
ReadWave is a community of readers and writers who love to discover and share new stories from contemporary writers. Readers can access thousands of stories and read them for free on mobile or desktop. ReadWave’s free Story of the Week gives you a great short story from a new writer every week, delivered straight to your inbox. Writers can use ReadWave to build up a fan-base and market their stories online. ReadWave puts writers in touch with the readers who are right for them.