Posted on July 3, 2013 in Archive

How to find a quality digital book


Although growth in the independent press and self-publishing industries is cause for celebration for readers, it has also led to one particularly tiresome dilemma. How can you find a quality digital book?

How to wade through the sea of crap to find a good quality book?

These days anyone with an Internet connection can “publish” their work and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for readers to distinguish between an opinionated blogger with an overactive keyboard, and a truly talented writer.

It used to be up to publishers to determine what was worth reading and what wasn’t.

Now, without so much as the helpful assistant at your local bookstore, it’s hard to know where to look for quality reading material.

Crowd the Book and No Names, No Jackets are two websites that are employing innovative strategies for overcoming this problem.

Crowd the Book (CtB)

Crowd the book logo

Crowd the Book: Curators of indie literature


Crowd the Book, which was launched in March this year, is positioning itself as a curator of indie literature.

The purpose of the service is to provide readers with access to indie authors and small presses, and to provide these authors with a platform for publishing their work.

Each month the team at CtB promote a handpicked book from a range of submissions from authors and small presses.

Towards the end of each month they manage an online Q&A with the purpose of providing fans a place to get together and discuss the book.

They also upload author bios and interviews, as well as the option to purchase the book directly through the site using PayPal.

Unfortunately CtB don’t offer a digital copy of the books they promote. Co-founder Vishal Khanna said it is a possibility for the future, but at the moment their target audience is people who love actual books.

We think of our readers as similar to the people who collect vinyl. They love the feel of books, the smell of books.

Vishal Khanna

The startup is focused on “being purveyors of fine printed literature from below the radar” and is a good destination for readers interested in finding reading material that only exists outside of the mainstream literature paradigm.

No Names, No Jackets (3NJ)

Quality digital book - No Names, No Jackets logo

No Names, No Jackets: literature lucky dip


No Names, No Jackets is a taste testing website for books, developed by British writer John Rickards.

3NJ doesn’t rely on stars, ratings, or reviews; it doesn’t provide titles, authors, or publishers – just pure text.

It simply gives readers access to the first chapter of a book or the first few sentences of a short story or poem.

Rickards got the idea for 3NJ from a passionate article by  Suw Charman-Anderson. To solve the problem of finding good books, she proposed a website that sets readers up on “ blind dates with books.”

Anderson wanted something that helps readers discriminate between books that are worth reading and books that aren’t, and Rickards decided it was a great and achievable concept.

At the moment it’s mainly self-publishers who upload their work, but the service is open to anyone and Rickards hopes that more established authors and publishers will get on board.

If a reader decides they like a particular text, they can click on a link that reveals the author’s name and where they can find a full copy.

In this sense, 3NJ stands in contrast with CtB, as it hands the role of gatekeeper over to the reader, meaning they might still need to sort through a lot of rubbish before finding something decent.

What I like about it though is that it allows you to use your own judgment, which is infinitely more reliable than star ratings and reviews.

It’s the digital equivalent of lounging around a bookstore, flicking through the first few pages of a pile of different books until you stumble across something that suits you.

And, just like in a bookstore, reading a “random pick” can be extremely amusing.

For someone who has struggled with the surfeit of digital content floating around, and knowing where to look for quality reading, I’m excited about CtB and 3NJ and hope to see more innovative ideas like these pop up.