Spinebreakers reading network

Penguin books (UK) will launch in September an online book community for teenagers, called Spinebreakers. "Spinebreakers.co.uk will be a stimulating and entertaining portal into the world of books, run by teenagers themselves. Editorial control of the site will be in the hands of a core editorial team of nine teenagers aged between 13 and 18 years, supported by a large network of contributing teen editors from across the UK."

The company has done a survey which it says shows that:

  • three in four teenagers get their information on books from the internet and wished there was more information on books available to them on the internet.
  • Nearly 44% of surveyed teens never or rarely visit a chain bookshop and 68% never or rarely visit an independent bookshop.
  • 69% of teens think they will be doing more reading online in the future.
  • Teens who rate reading as cool are the most frequent visitors to social networking sites.

Anna Rafferty, Penguin’s Online Marketing Director, said: "Publishers and the book trade are failing to reach teenagers via traditional methods of marketing and have been slow to create a space on or off line where teenagers can interact with books. Penguin is taking the lead, making books a far more attractive proposition in a crowded teen market place, harnessing their creativity, getting them involved in the creative process and hopefully making them readers for life."

The teen team will have the opportunity, says the Penguin press release, to discuss, debate and interact with Penguin’s rich source of publishing from contemporary titles such as Meg Rosoff’s Just in Case, Nick Hornby’s first book for teenagers Slam, Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation to classics such as J.D Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye and Kerouac’s On the Road.

Well, we shall see. I can understand that it seems to make business sense to Penguin to try to get the readers to their site, rather than to establish a group in one of the current social networks popular with teens. As has been said previously (not by me), what most people, teens or not, want is probably to have the ability to do all of their social networking in one place. Hence I am not sure how successful a single-publisher social site will be, unless they broaden it to non-Penguin authors. Time will tell.