Three questions for…Richard Lang of Democrasoft

WeJITs help extend social engagement beyond the ebook

1. Democrasoft offers a WeJIT platform. What exactly is a WeJIT?

A WeJIT is a “portable” collaboration unit. It is a self-contained collaborative discussion about a singular topic, which lives on a one-page website dedicated to that discussion topic (the WeJIT itself). A WeJIT about any topic is always structured,”which means it contains several common elements: (1) the WeJIT title (or question), (2) a brief prompt or statement introducing the topic, (3) an attachment, such as a video, image, document, clickable/linkable book image, etc., (4) a means for participants to be counted in some form, such as voting Yes/No, selecting from multiple-choice options, proposing solutions in response to open-ended questions, etc. – This is the quantitative component. (5) Participant comments, usually relating to the votes – This is the qualitative element, (6) A way to share the individual WeJIT by disseminating the URL link associated with that WeJIT, using various social networks (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) or even email, depending on the intended audience.

WeJITs can be created by the author or publisher and actually embedded into any e-publication (an ebook, for instance), prompting reader discussion and collaboration around any topic in the book, introduced by the author (who can also participate), and spreadable by sharing the URL link to the WeJIT.

2. When we spoke earlier you mentioned how important it is that your platform isn’t just for people who already own the book. In fact, WeJITs have the potential to serve as a marketing tool for publishers looking to expose the book to everyone else. Can you explain how that works?

Usually, only those people who already own an interactive e-book can access the book and see each others comments (which tend to only be an internal comment stream without the quantitative engagement of a WeJIT, or the benefit of participants who don’t yet own the book). WeJITs allow readers who have the e-book to share specific WeJIT discussions from inside the book with others who don’t yet own the book but who will likely have an interest in the specific WeJIT topic. When a new person clicks on the WeJIT link that was shared with them, they are taken right into the same WeJIT discussion that others who already own the book are in, and once there, if they are piqued by the subject matter, they can click on the embedded book image and be taken to any web page (of the authors choosing) where they can buy that book, other books or even other related items like podcasts, workshop registrations, sound recordings, etc.

The WeJIT turns every ebook reader into a potential sales rep, without requiring anyone to join any new communities or platforms. New readers show up, not just on the basis of a general recommendation to read a book, but rather, because of an invitation from a friend, to participate in a specific conversation topic (from inside the book) that they are likely to have an interest in (which then can prompt the purchase of the entire book, accessed right from within the WeJIT).

3. The major retailers clearly want to own the community discussion that takes place around the ebooks they sell. That’s obviously why Amazon shut down the highlights-sharing feature in Findings. Do you anticipate any similar challenges for the WeJIT approach?

WeJITs have several important distinctions: (1) An online retailer can limit their own features, but they cannot (nor would they want to) prevent an author from providing an embedded link to an external web destination (in this case the WeJIT page). Without that freedom of Internet connectivity, there would be virtually no video or other interactive capabilities in any ebook, which would hurt the major retailers and authors in a big way; (2) WeJITs are agnostic to the platform from which they are being accessed. This means that regardless of where a WeJIT participant is connecting from (Kindle, Nook, web browser on any device, etc.), everyone is being connected to the same individual WeJIT site about any particular topic from the book. By embedding the WeJIT URLs in an ebook, the author begins the process by which any existing reader can and will invite others to join that specific WeJIT topic-conversation. And many new readers, then hooked by the topic, will choose to buy the book to get more than just the WeJIT sample. This is a huge plus for any and all e-book retailers and clearly a huge win for every author of an e-book. (3) Authors and publishers have the ability to tailor the discussion topics when they create and embed WeJITs. They can guide readers into the interactive discussion process without requiring that readers join a new platform or even own the book.

In theory, an individual WeJIT topic from inside an e-book could catch on and go viral on its own, selling more books as more potential readers join a given WeJIT discussion and then, captivated by the book that contains that conversation, decide to buy the book.

Richard Lang is Chairman & CEO of Democrasoft, Inc.