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Reading for Pleasure

The focus of all our work is readers – their reading lives and reading choices. We believe that readers are active participants in the world of books and literature not just passive consumers. There are no writers without readers. We are audience developers for the written word.

Reading for pleasure

We work to tempt people into reading, to enlarge reading lives and to help readers find their next favourite read – maybe something that they never knew they wanted. We aim to make work that opens up reading choices, helping readers discover something new for themselves. To do this we have pioneered reader-centred ways to curate collections to present varied, challenging, surprising and tempting reading choices.

Our work has mostly been delivered in partnership with public library services, both in the UK and also in Europe, Australia and North America. We share our values with public libraries, believing that reading is not a luxury and that readers want to be offered access to a comprehensive collection of fiction and non-fiction in different formats, without being judged by what they choose to read.

Opening the Book has been thriving since 1990 – we are one of the longest-standing independent cultural small businesses in the UK. Our cohesive team of creative professionals has a strong reputation for innovative, groundbreaking practical projects delivered on budget and on time. We take pride in always offering a high degree of responsiveness and flexibility. We listen to partners and clients – it’s how we learn and is the basis of our success.

Our current projects

Reading for Wellbeing

Bespoke induction training commissioned by Ann Cleeves and Wellbeing Pods in Leeds in partnership with the NHS.

Ask for a Book

The reading suggestions website Ask for a Book has been developed, piloted and tested with a group of library services and with the support of Arts Council England and LibraryOn.

Whichbook

Of the many websites for readers that we have developed, whichbook has proved the most popular and now reaches over 400,000 readers across the world per year.

Collection development

Helping libraries develop rich and diverse collections is a core part of Opening the Book’s work. We created the first ever booklists for libraries seeking to promote Black British writing, queer writing, narrative non-fiction and alternative formats for those with visual impairments. For the Audit Commission we developed the Stock Quality Health Check which was used to measure the quality of an adult fiction collection across public libraries in the UK and Ireland. Our expertise in this area is the driver behind the curated collections in the Ask for a Book project. 

Cover design collections on Ask for a Book start from visual appeal and bring books together which share recognisable elements – it’s a lot of fun to choose a book by its cover. Themed collections start from a topic or interest and widen out to include an intriguing mix of titles which go beyond a standard subject collection.

Enjoy the showcase examples here, they will change every week.

Collection: Becoming You

Digital projects

Opening the Book’s tech team has created a superb training platform to make online learning an enjoyable experience. Our courses give every learner their own online workspace for notes and reflection; offer interactive exercises with book covers to teach book knowledge as well as audience targeting and merchandising skills; and enable dialogue between learners and mentors to apply the learning to your own workplace. 20,000 staff have taken our courses in 5 continents.

We bring content and tech expertise together to create groundbreaking websites for readers. 4ureaders.net was the first library site for teenage readers in Scotland; 9 services in the East Midlands linked up to offer Blind Date with a Book to 16-25s; Give me a Break ran as a website and physical promotion across every library service in Wales. Over the years whichbook has enabled over 8 million readers to find new books in innovative ways. The site ran for 5 years in Norwegian and Dutch versions too. 

Training courses

Archived websites

Audience development

These are the key principles of Opening the Book’s reader-centred approach to promoting books and reading. They have been shared around the world and generated thousands of different promotions. If ever you’re stuck for an idea, pick one of these and see how you can implement it in your next display/event/social media post.

Differentiating reading audiences
Differentiating reading audiences

In the retail sector, companies know a great deal about their customers and, when planning marketing strategies, they break their...

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Putting the reader first
Putting the reader first

The literature world concentrates mainly on writing and publishing. This is true of both the commercial sector and the arts...

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The best book in the world …
The best book in the world …

… is quite simply the one you like best.  You can discover it for yourself but we are here to...

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Less is more
Less is more

One of the biggest barriers to finding what you want is the sheer number of choices that exist. If you...

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A reader-centred approach to quality
A reader-centred approach to quality

Reader development takes an inclusive approach to whatever people are reading. We don’t need to make value judgments about the...

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Reader-to-reader
Reader-to-reader

When we talk of resources we think of books, buildings, staff. But the biggest resource you have is your readers....

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Opening up reading choices
Opening up reading choices

Think about all the barriers that we have to overcome every time we pick a new book to read. Is...

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How readers choose
How readers choose

Our research has shown that approximately half of the people coming into a library are looking for a specific title...

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Reader-centred writing
Reader-centred writing

There are lots of different kinds of writing about books – reviews make judgments on quality, synopses summarise what a...

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Making the reader visible
Making the reader visible

Reading is something we do by ourselves in private. There are more readers than there are practitioners of any other...

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Sell the sizzle not the sausage
Sell the sizzle not the sausage

Starting with the reader and the experience of reading, rather than the author or the book, is the major change...

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Make the reader the star
Make the reader the star

Instead of modelling a live literature event in a library on the traditional author talk and reading, it is worth...

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Respecting other people's reading experience
Respecting other people's reading experience

What makes us think that the reader of romances is stuck in a dream world, an escapist, probably deeply unhappy...

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