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Opinion

Musician Mike Doughty offers hyper-personalization for fans, but would the same strategy work with books?

US singer-songwriter Mike Doughty, formerly of the band Soul Coughing, has come up with a pretty novel offering for his fans: for $543.09, he’ll record a personalized version of his new song “Dogs / Demons” directly into a voice recorder, and then send the recorder (with the song, obviously) to the customer. In other words, he’s offering a bespoke performance tailored for the individual who’s placed the order. But could this approach work with ebooks?

When I was growing up in the 80s, I remember there was a company that produced a special line of ‘personalized’ books. You gave them your name and a few other details, and they’d insert you (or your friend, if you were buying it as a gift) into a copy of one of their books, posting you the hard copy when they were done. It was a pretty basic form of personalization (not much more than copying and pasting), but it would be a lot easier to do these days and I’m sure there’d be a market. Imagine if the publisher of Twilight allowed fans to purchase a hardback edition with the names of the characters changed to whatever each customer wanted, perhaps even other details such as the name of the town?

A lot of people would be aghast at this kind of thing, but there’s probably a small market and – looks at Doughty’s prices for his personalized song – it’s clear that the profit margins on each order could be substantial. I could totally see an author making this kind of thing work, provided they already have an established fan base.

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