Stuff We Love: Zwoodle Books
Zwoodle Books is an online resource that shares the most popular free or inexpensive ebooks with readers. Visit www.zwoodlebooks.com to explore! Below is an interview with the founder (and Zwoodle Noodle), Kristen.
What is the goal of Zwoodle Books?
At Zwoodle Books, we really want to connect readers and authors together in an enjoyable experience. We do our best to feature books that are highly rated and from as many genres as possible so there’s a little something for everyone. And we want our site and Twitter feed to be fun. :)
We know what it’s like to be a casual or voracious reader on a budget scrolling through the books on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Google Play Books, iTunes, etc. and just being completely overwhelmed.
We also understand authors trying to strike that delicate balance between making their book available at an accessible price and being able to make a living doing what they love. There is a happy medium there somewhere, although it’s not an easy one to find. We hope that by connecting talented and serious authors with our expanding level of readership, we can help bridge that gap.
One difficulty authors often face is the fact that to be successful in this new age of digital publishing, you really do have to be business-savvy as well. How do you promote yourself without coming across like a spammer or spending so many hours of every day trying to do something with social media that you no longer have time to write? As we are able to grow our audience, we can help give authors a boost in their sales and connect readers to some really amazing work.
We try to research as many places to find each e-book as possible, so we aren’t focusing on just the Kindle or just the NOOK. There are a lot of great e-readers out there, and we don’t want to ignore the people that own those, especially since the Digital Rights Management (DRM) restrictions are often specific to each device.
We also take the time to research each writer and add their website and Twitter URLs to our posts whenever possible. The time it takes to do so really adds up, especially since some writers are astonishingly hard to find! But we think it’s important to help connect readers and authors together, which is why we do it.
We really do love books and almost everything we do is out of a genuine respect for book readers. Who are we writing for, if not them? As such, we are really open to feedback from the public, positive or negative. We want to make it the best that it can be.
Who created the idea for the site and why?
I moderate Zwoodle Books and our Twitter account under my noodly alter ego - the Zwoodle Noodle is a fun way for me to interact with people on a personal level in between our regular tweets. (Although I’d be glad for the extra followers it might bring me to promote myself, I don’t want people to think that my political opinions or what I eat for breakfast influences my book choice. I try my best to be objective.)
I stopped reading for about ten years during the course of my marriage, and like most divorcees, I set out on a quest find myself again; reading was a natural extension of that process.
Through a series of events and happenstance, I became the owner of a Kindle, and being at that post-divorce level of broke so many people can relate to, I spent a lot of time looking for books that were free or inexpensive.
To be honest, I wound up muddling through a lot of mediocre material. At one point, I read a free book that turned out to be the first in a series that was nine - nine! - substandard books long. The writing, the characters, everything about it was not at a level that I really appreciated, but I had to read the rest of them to find out what happened (because that’s just the kind of person I am). But that was a turning point for me. My reading time is limited and, therefore, valuable. So I became much more selective in my choices. It occurred to me that this research could benefit others, which was a way for me to justify the amount of time I was spending on it. So there’s that. :)
I also was a subscriber of several free e-book lists. There are a lot of great ones out there, and I would never try to minimize their work or what they have to offer. But for me personally, there were so many choices that I was like, “Oh, this looks good. And so does this one. Ooh, and this one.” It got to the point where I really became an e-book hoarder. I will never be able to read all of the books in my Kindle. Never.
For most people, I think a book or two a week in a genre that they like is enough, which is why we try to feature a different genre every weekday - Mystery Mondays, Two for Tuesdays, Romantic Wednesdays, Horror Thursdays, and Sci-Fi/Fantasy Fridays - and typically only one or two free books each day (plus deals, as we find them) so the choices aren’t so overwhelming. That type of filtering is what would work best for me, and I’m hoping it will help others as well.
Who is the audience for the site?
Anyone who likes to read. :)
How are books chosen to be featured on Zwoodle Books?
Sometimes we receive notices from the authors themselves, which is happening more and more, and we love that! We would really love to get recommendations from the general public or publishers because each of those would be an endorsement or additional filtering process in themselves. We could never read all of the books we share in a million lifetimes (but how great would that be?)
As it is now, we hand-select most of the books we feature, based on popularity and ratings. It’s an imperfect system, especially considering how “reviews” can be bought and sold online, and it’s almost impossible to distinguish between those and genuine readers’ thoughts. But eventually, the market should even itself out as more people catch on to these things.
We would especially love to feature writers from underrepresented aspects of our society that could offer a unique perspective on the world.
What (if any) changes or adaptations can be expected in the future?
Oh, wow. We do have lots of plans for the future…
Once our audience expands, we’d like to engage readers more, perhaps with book reviews, commentaries, and forums.
For authors, we plan to offer free websites, similar to Blogger or Tumblr but devoted solely to books, and perhaps low-cost promotional packages (that do not involve buying reviews).
Eventually, and perhaps most exciting (to me), we plan to host writing contests and ultimately delve into the world of publishing.
We can’t really do much expansion until we get through the growing pains of being a startup company, but we expect to offer most of those features within the next year. We are small, but we are here to stay, so all of these options are on the horizon.
If you could tell our community only ONE thing about Zwoodle Books, what would it be?
Zwoodle Books is a labor of love; it’s a gift from us to you. <3