The Internet Explosion

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Reader Groups

One key impact the Internet had on the romance industry was bringing readers and authors together as they had never been before. Suddenly, readers could "meet" their favorites, carry on debates and conversations, and discover the authors who influenced their favorite authors. In 1992, RRA-L became the first major listserv to encourage a mix of readers and authors (though authors only participate with the reader hat on).

Author Groups

Authors also came together in new ways -- long-distance or online-only critique groups were formed, and virtual relationships were strengthened by in-person meetings at conferences. GEnie, one of the earliest Internet services, allowed writers to form communities. The Amazon.com explosion made it easier for books to reach readers, and in the case of publishers like Harlequin whose titles generally had a shelf life of only one month, it extended the the selling cycle. Stocking up on an author's backlist became easier as well, due to Amazon.com and online used bookstores.

There were dark sides to this newfound openness. Authors discovered that readers held very strong opinions (often, however, the vocal minority spoke up; given that most readers were not online, the opinions expressed did not necessarily reflect the views of the readership in general). Readers discovered that some authors had thin skins -- often a negative review would create an online scandal and lead to hurt feelings.

New Ways to Buy

And Amazon.com, the company that made it easer than ever to purchase books, scandalized the writing community by making it easier than ever to make the choice between purchasing new or used copies of books, by including a link that showed the number of new and used copies available through Amazon partners. This lead to many romance authors boycotting the Amazon website in favor of Barnes & Noble.