Leanpub Podcast Interview with Mirela Roncevic on Free Reading Zones and her vision of the future (for books)

A few weeks ago, NSR Director Mirela Roncevic talked with Leanpub about her Free Reading Zones efforts and explained the experience of turning an entire country into an open virtual library as a way of showing the potential of ebooks and digital content to democratize the written word, transform the publishing industry, and envision a future in which libraries serve people beyond the confines of their buildings and assigned zip codes. She has written about it in her Lessons from Croatia Reads series on NSR (the  Sponsor of the countrywide initiative in Croatia to spread free reading) and is in the midst of writing a lengthy case study/report on the project, to be published by ALA later in 2017.

This is the most revealing (audio) interview on the project thusfar, in which she sheds light on the challenges she and her team encountered and why she believes the future of reading will look radically different than it does today.


Len: I was wondering if you could talk, just for a few minutes, about your current vision. I mean, of course, there will still be experiments, but what is your vision of a global open virtual library? How would it work? Would it have a sort of single, central administration or?

Mirela: I have visions of it. Somebody asked me in an interview, “What is the ultimate Free Reading Zone?”  And I answered, “Oh, the entire world is the ultimate Free Reading Zone.” Not a particular country.

But I do think that for many, many reasons, we have ways to go to get there. It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s probably not going to happen in my lifetime. Continue reading Leanpub Podcast Interview with Mirela Roncevic on Free Reading Zones and her vision of the future (for books)

Free mobile reading and writing platform for all to use? Yes, please. And thank you, Sweek.


Have you heard of the free mobile reading and writing platform Sweek? I didn’t know anything about it myself until I discovered it at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair. As I learned from a recent press release, it is a global platform for free reading, writing and sharing stories already present in over 75 countries. It is available on all relevant platforms (including iOS and Android) and new stories from authors from around the world are uploaded daily. The idea is to give established and aspiring writers a creative outlet where they can share their stories for free, while also being able to promote their work. What a wonderful idea. Very aligned with No Shelf Required’s mission to support projects that unleash the written word for all to enjoy. The future of books and reading is ‘free’ in all shapes and sizes. Projects like this bring us closer to that future.–Ed.

Here’s more from the press release:

Frankfurt Book Fair

Sweek has been launched on all three platforms – iOS, Android and web – with full reading and writing functionality at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2016. During consumer days, hundreds of readers and writers downloaded the app and were introduced to the #sweekgalaxy competition for short stories. Until November 15th, writers can upload their short story of less than 2,000 words on Sweek using #sweekgalaxy to win a Samsung Galaxy S7. Veronika Kartovenko, cofounder and business development manager at Sweek: ‘Of course, we also talked with a lot of publishers during the book fair to discuss incorporating mobile publishing into their strategy. We definitely expect more top authors to join Sweek in the upcoming months.’

Reading and writing become social and mobile

Sweek serves a broad audience of readers and writers, but the ‘Smartphone generation’ is joining Sweek on a larger scale. ‘These people still read a lot, but in a different way, with the social component playing a crucial role in the reading experience, especially for the youngsters. Interestingly, even more ‘traditional’ readers start reading more on their smartphones, something which has been confirmed again and again by recent research,’ says Peter Paul van Bekkum, CEO of Mybestseller and Sweek. ‘Our most active markets, Turkey and Latin America, support this idea of changing reading behavior, as we see users being very smartphone focused, starting their own Facebook groups about Sweek, and caring a lot about the community and interaction.’ Readers can follow and like stories, and share them via different social media channels. Veronika Kartovenko: ‘Sweek creates a link between the author and the reader. Compared to the current situation, in which reading is a solitary activity and the author doesn’t know who his readers are, this changes the nature of reading and writing.

Reaching the Netflix generation

Authors are currently using Sweek to publish all types of content, in all genres and languages. ‘Sweek is there for – amongst others – short stories, blog posts, books and serialized writing,’ states Sabine van der Plas, co-founder and marketing manager at Sweek. ‘We currently see a lot of short stories on the platform, but also some traditional, chapter driven books, which users upload in one go. We’re curious to see how serialized and ‘never-ending stories’ will evolve. We believe that they can build up the interest of readers, who are by now used to shorter, cliffhanger based content, and have the potential to gain a massive amount of followers.’

Marketing tool for authors

The smartphone generation barely visits the bookstore anymore, while the publishing industry is still using mainly traditional marketing techniques to promote books. Recent changes in reading behavior ask for changes in publishers’ strategy, if they want to remain profitable. Currently, very few authors have a strong presence on social media, which we believe directly threatens their future sales. Sabine van der Plas: ‘Sweek is the ideal marketing tool for top authors and traditional publishers. By sharing exciting content – for free – on Sweek, authors reconnect with their readers, create a loyal fanbase, including digital natives, and reach a new audience. The author can immediately reach those followers when a new traditionally published books is released, thereby increasing book sales.’

About Sweek

Sweek is a mobile platform which allows anyone to read, write and share stories. All over the world. In an instant. For free. On Sweek you can find stories of both upcoming writers and established top authors, in all genres, to be read online and offline. Readers can follow, like and share stories, and readers and writers are directly connected. Sweek is free for all users, and is available in 12 languages for Android, iOS and web users.

About Mybestseller

Mybestseller gives any author the opportunity to easily publish their book (print and e-book) and sell it via all relevant sales channels, such as Amazon, but also directly via social media using BookLink. Next to operating its own brands as and, Mybestseller offers third parties a full service white label solution. This way, any publisher, bookseller or content party can immediately integrate self-publishing in their strategy, for instance and Mybestseller is active in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, the United Kingdom, France and Turkey.

A time to (finally) incorporate indie eBooks into library catalogs


By Emilie Hancock

It’s no secret that technology has impacted reading. As eReading has become more prevalent, readers demand publications in both print and digital formats. Not only has that thirst for varied formats allowed greater freedom for how and when we read — devouring short serials on the bus or listening to audiobooks while running, for instance — it has also allowed more freedom in what, or who, we read. In addition to books available from big publishers, digital publishing has seemingly conjured scores of indie and self-published books out of the shadows. And judging by the success of Hugh Howey and CJ Lyons, among others, readers are happy to include indie books along with those from big-name presses.

However, while most libraries around the country meet patrons’ digital demands by lending eBooks, many have historically been  less than enthusiastic about the idea of adopting indie eBooks. That has been changing in major urban libraries and in the thought leadership of the library world, with good reason. By examining evidence around the consumer demand and affordability of indie eBooks versus eBooks from traditional publishers, we can demonstrate how incorporating indie eBooks into libraries’ catalogs can be good for both patrons and libraries. Continue reading A time to (finally) incorporate indie eBooks into library catalogs

Who decides? [what, how, and when people should read]

This post, recently published on Facebook by NSR Managing Editor, was addressed to book readers (not book professionals). But publishers, librarians, authors, editors, distributors, and all others in the business of creating, selling, and managing books would benefit from asking the same questions. If for no other reason than for the simple fact that they, too, are book readers before they are book professionals.

locked up

Who decides?

In 2016, human creativity is exploding online. Right here, on Facebook. We admire paintings and sculptures from museums in far-away countries, we watch videos, share photographs, listen to music, read articles. Everything is within reach, and everything is free. At the same time, the world’s knowledge is locked up in books, which still carry a high price tag.

In 2016, every man should ask: Why can’t we read books freely online like we read everything else? Are publishers and librarians doing enough to maximize the potential of the ebook in ways we haven’t seen before? Is what we see in bookstores and libraries all there is out there to read? Should others decide what I will read, how, and when? Why are we talking about the love of paper and not about the love of learning and the ability to get to the right information at the right time? What if there wasn’t even competition between the two formats (print and electronic)? What if there was already a way to open up books online so that everyone benefits, including those who create them? How much do I even know about the technologies supporting the growth and development of ebooks as free mediums? Why isn’t anyone teaching me?

In 2016, every man should ask: Why don’t we have free access to knowledge and the written word online? When will we have it? And who decides?

Opinions my own.

Mirela Roncevic is Managing Editor at No Shelf Required. For all NSR-related news and book reviews, follow her on Twitter @noshelfrequired. For her writings related to creativity, writing, and literacy, follow her on Facebook.

Three Reading Revolutions

3 Reading Revolution

I have been thinking ‘long and mad’ (in the words of my favorite poet Pablo Neruda) about the history of the book. I’ve been thinking about it most of all in the context of how readers consume it. Truth be told, thinking about it as a ‘book professional’ leaves me gasping for air sometimes.

I am not even sure that I can convince most of my colleagues (publishers, librarians, and authors alike) that my thinking about the “three revolutions of reading” (as I see them) makes perfect sense and that it is, indeed, the way it is. But I can say this: these thoughts are persistent and consistent with my experience as editor, writer, content developer, and publishing/library professional. Yet they are NOT the thoughts of an editor, writer, content developer or publishing/library professional. They are the thoughts of a reader living and experiencing the world in 2016 (and beyond). Perhaps also the thoughts of a parent raising a reader living and experiencing the world in 2016.

And I could write many paragraphs and ‘throw’ them between the lines written on this board (to explain each revolution in detail), but perhaps it helps to say as much as possible with as few words as possible.


Mirela Roncevic is Managing Editor at No Shelf Required. For all NSR-related news and book reviews, follow her on Twitter @noshelfrequired. For her writings related to creativity and literacy, follow her on Facebook.

Technology is not the death of deep reading

river image what is referenceIn the summer of 2016, National Public Radio (NPR) announced a new reason for bibliophiles to celebrate. In an article about publishers returning to serialized fiction, Serial Box Publishing Co-Founder Julian Yap reiterates an all-too-common argument for why most Americans — three quarters of us, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll — don’t read books: not enough time. While we have little chance of decreasing how much time we spend working, caring for family and commuting, the amount of time that could stand the most modification is leisure time.

Continue reading Technology is not the death of deep reading

Publishers, librarians, authors: Please support the Free Reading Zones initiative. It supports YOU.


The enthusiasm for Free Reading Zones (an initiative of organizations and individuals to spread reading and enable free access to knowledge everywhere) is growing steadily on Facebook since we launched the campaign less than two weeks ago. Why Facebook and not LinkedIn? Because Facebook is where the READERS are. We spend too much time on LinkedIn thinking like professionals, and not enough time connecting with those we are in this business for: readers.

We spend too much time at book shows and library conferences trying to impress each other (as professionals) while failing to see that our industry (in its broadest sense) is painfully disconnected from those it claims to serve: readers. And even though we beg to differ, we rarely want to admit that we don’t care to help readers connect with other readers (something ebooks and econtent can help us accomplish like no other medium ever has in the history of mankindand no, online communities where people get to discuss books isn’t what I have in mind here, although these communities are surely helping us get ‘there’).  If we really did care, people would by now have more free access to books everywhere (just like they have free access to music, art, and other forms of human expression). If we weren’t so paralyzed by fear, we would spend more time looking at the horizon and less time stressing over ‘the bottom line.’

Free Reading Zones (FREZ) is about supporting PUBLISHERS and the AUTHORS they nurture (because they benefit every time someone reads). It’s also about supporting INDEPENDENT AUTHORS (because it is a channel for them to expose their work, and, as it turns out, the world is full of independent authors producing high-quality work every single day). And about helping LIBRARIES ‘go beyond’ the confines of their walls to support literacy in all incarnations. Giving people knowledge, regardless of their zip code, is the kindest, most humane way to serve any society because it serves THE INDIVIDUAL, not the institutionand it is far more important than inviting people to visit the local library, however beautiful the architecture or the smell of paper.

Most of all: it’s about giving access to the written word to people around the world by relying on sponsorships from organizations willing (and eager, in fact) to support unleashing of the stories that have been locked up in print books. Libraries have, for centuries, been the ultimate free reading zones. In 2016, we have the technology and the willingness of an army of people involved in this initiative to turn all kinds of places—public and private—into free reading zones (with help from libraries and other organizations): parks, hospitals, laundromats, airports, airplanes, hotels, beaches, schools, etc. etc.

I have the privilege of running this initiative and working with many of you already. It is an honor to utter the following brands in my conversations with sponsors: Workman, Elsevier, De Gruyter, Berlitz, Lonely Planet, Sourcebooks, O’Reilly Media, Other Press, Oxford University Press, Chicago Review Press, Marshall Cavendish, Lerner, Rourke Educational Media, New World Library, ECW Press, Berrett-Koehler, Algonquin, Artisan, and over 200 other publishers from around the world whose content is available for reading in these Zones (in English and other languages).

To all of you whose books are exposed for reading in these zones: thank you. To the publishers that want to join us, please let me know (non-English language content is especially welcome). To the libraries that want to take part: please don’t wait another day.

To all others who wish to help, please spread the word and support the Free Reading Zones page on Facebook. The page itself serves as ‘proof’ that we are all in it together. Every ‘like’ is a vote for free access to knowledge. Every ‘like’ is a statement to the sponsors everywhere that READING MATTERS. It matters more than publishers. And libraries. And authors. It even matters more than books. If we are unable to ‘see’ it, then who is?—MR

Mirela Roncevic is Managing Editor of No Shelf Required and Director of the Free Reading Zones initiative (launched in 2016 in the United States and around the world). For all NSR-related news and reviews, follow her on Twitter @MirelaRoncevic. For her writings related to books and all things creativity and literacy, follow her on Facebook.

The cry of the stories to be FREE [from all who write, package, and sell them]

Stories not atoms

“Every renaissance comes to the world with a cry — the cry of the spirit to be free.” I discovered this quote by Anne Sullivan (1866-1936) while searching for quotes about the meaning of renaissance. I read at least 50 before I came across the one that came close to conveying what I was feeling when I visited Florence last year: the cry of the spirit from centuries ago to be free.

If Venice (which I visited a day before Florence) was “the depth where the spirit hides,” I wrote, Florence must be where it comes out. If Venice was about closing the soul, Florence was about opening it. If Venice was about concealing the unspoken, Florence was about expressing it.

The more I walked through the streets of Florence, the more I felt my own spirit coming alive. And I wondered: if renaissance means “cry of the spirit to be free,” could it be that the “spirit” must first be “locked up” in some place (or age) before it can even yearn to be free? What if the pain (or inconvenience) of confinement was the prerequisite for experiencing the Renaissance? What if all that I was seeing in Florence couldn’t have happened any other way?

What about the stories we have been locking up in books for centuries? What if the stories we write (and package/distribute/sell/curate in containers we call books) are asking to be free? What if they could give us much more if we would set them free ? What if they want ‘their’ renaissance? What if what we think of as “protection” is nothing more than a human need to guard not the stories but our own professional, culturally-induced identities and financial well-being? Continue reading The cry of the stories to be FREE [from all who write, package, and sell them]

Placing a hold — Emotional adventures in the ebook catalog

books-1614218_1920NSR is pleased to present the second in a series of stories written by Yoav Lorch, Founder and CEO of Total Boox,  on the irrationality of the ebook ‘situation’ in libraries.  His first story, Book Snatching — Clearly the most violent act in the history of reading, was published on NSR three weeks ago. It is about the absurdity of ebooks disappearing from devices; this one is about the absurdity of needing to place holds in digital environments.

Librarians and publishers alike need to be reminded of such absurdities. In a world beset with analytical articles from trade journals, it’s quite refreshing to consider such absurdities through fictional narratives. As Neil Gaiman (long-time supporter of libraries) wisely put it: “Life is always going to be stranger than fiction, because fiction has to be convincing, and life doesn’t.” Continue reading Placing a hold — Emotional adventures in the ebook catalog

Book Snatching — Clearly the most violent act in the history of reading

book-436507_1920A little over two years ago, shortly after Total Boox entered the library market, NSR published a story written by Total Boox CEO and Founder, Yoav Lorch, on the absurdity of ebooks disappearing from devices. Sue Polanka (founder of NSR) wrote in her introduction to the story that it was a “clever tale showing us the sad state of ebook borrowing in libraries.”

Since the picture hasn’t changed much, and the absurdity of ebook content disappearing from devices still reigns in 2016, I’ve asked Mr. Lorch for permission to publish the story again. Enjoy.—Ed.

Continue reading Book Snatching — Clearly the most violent act in the history of reading