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Book Business March/April 2013 : Page 10

News Startup Showcase In a new recurring feature, Book Business looks at some of the innovative young companies changing publishing. ByliNer: ( APRIL buzz Pub I Writing Short and Selling Big n 2006, after a career as an editor and writer for publications such as Outside , GQ and The New York Times Magazine , John Tayman’s new book, The Colony , was doing well, and Scribner urged him to start thinking about a second book. Three things gave him pause. First: “I had just finished a long slog on a single book and was not so eager to Richard Russo’s Byliner, Nate in Venice . jump into something of that size immediately.” Secondly: “I could see and recognize significant changes afoot as the indus-try moved from analog to digital.” And finally: “Because I had been a magazine edi-tor for so long I had a stack of story ideas. As I began reviewing them I saw they were all ill-suited to either form: too short for a full-size book (they didn’t require 100,000 words and two years of my life) and a little more complex than could be handled by a conventional magazine piece of 3,000-5,000 words.” Long be-fore Kindle and iPad, Tayman began seeking “a natural and obvious distri-bution and dis-covery method for this sized content.” There was not, he says, “a realistic way for a writer to get a story to a David Leonhardt’s New York Times / Byliner original Here’s the Deal . reader that lived in between magazine and book size.” His search led to the forma-tion of Byliner, a pioneer in what many are calling long-form journalism, launched 18 months ago. The result, according to Tayman, was that “we end-ed up collecting the largest structured database of narra-tive fiction and non-fiction by the world’s best writers.” To bring this work to read-ers, “We do a tremendous amount of work with rec-ommendation algorithms to discover new writers and new pieces of content. … We really make a point to grow the audiences of these writers we work with, to clear out everything that got between these writers and their readers.” Tayman explains how the process came to market: “… the minute the Kindle came out and the first iPad it became obvious the time to start releasing our titles was here.” The site launched with non-fiction (their first entry was Jon Krakauer’s Three Cups of Deceit ) then moved into fiction (Amy Tan’s Rules for Virgins . Pieces run from 5,000-30,000 words and are read-able in a single sitting. They are “the reading equivalent of sneaking out for an after-noon at the movies.” Retail-ers call it everything from a “Short” (Kobo) to a “Snap” (Barnes & Noble). Byliner calls it an e-short, and Tay-man calls it successful: “One quarter of every title sold in this space is from Byliner.” Tayman, the company’s founder and CEO, jokes that he started Byliner so he could write in this new short form, but now has no time to do so. As to how the writer morphed into the business man: “If you have 10 APRIL 2013 | BOOK BUSINESS

Startup Showcase

Brian Howard And Lynn Rosen

In a new recurring feature, Book Business profiles the innovative young companies that are shaping the future of publishing.

ByliNer: Writing Short and Selling Big

In 2006, after a career as an editor and writer for publications such as Outside, GQ and The New York Times Magazine, John Tayman’s new book, The Colony, was doing well, and Scribner urged him to start thinking about a second book. Three things gave him pause.

First: “I had just finished a long slog on a single book and was not so eager to jump into something of that size immediately.”

Secondly: “I could see and recognize significant changes afoot as the industry moved from analog to digital.”

And finally: “Because I had been a magazine editor for so long I had a stack of story ideas. As I began reviewing them I saw they were all ill-suited to either form: too short for a full-size book (they didn’t require 100,000 words and two years of my life) and a little more complex than could be handled by a conventional magazine piece of 3,000-5,000 words.”

Long before Kindle and iPad, Tayman began seeking “a natural and obvious distribution and discovery method for this sized content.” There was not, he says, “a realistic way for a writer to get a story to a reader that lived in between magazine and book size.” His search led to the formation of Byliner, a pioneer in what many are calling longform journalism, launched 18 months ago.

The result, according to Tayman, was that “we ended up collecting the largest structured database of narrative fiction and non-fiction by the world’s best writers.” To bring this work to readers, “We do a tremendous amount of work with recommendation algorithms to discover new writers and new pieces of content. … We really make a point to grow the audiences of these writers we work with, to clear out everything that got between these writers and their readers.”

Tayman explains how the process came to market: “… the minute the Kindle came out and the first iPad it became obvious the time to start releasing our titles was here.” The site launched with non-fiction (their first entry was Jon Krakauer’s Three Cups of Deceit) then moved into fiction (Amy Tan’s Rules for Virgins.

Pieces run from 5,000- 30,000 words and are readable in a single sitting. They are “the reading equivalent of sneaking out for an afternoon at the movies.” Retailers call it everything from a “Short” (Kobo) to a “Snap” (Barnes & Noble). Byliner calls it an e-short, and Tayman calls it successful: “One quarter of every title sold in this space is from Byliner.”

Tayman, the company’s founder and CEO, jokes that he started Byliner so he could write in this new short form, but now has no time to do so. As to how the writer morphed into the business man: “If you have an exciting idea with promise you can build a team that helps you execute that idea.” —Lynn Rosen

BiBlioBoard:

A place for beautiful, curated historical artifacts

“I’ve been waiting my whole career to sell something like this,” says Mitchell Davis of BiblioBoard, a platform that helps libraries and institutions create and sell elegant multimedia anthologies and “exhibits” from their catalogs and collections.

Davis is a veteran of Amazon: He sold his first company, Book Surge, an integrated publishing and print-on-demand platform, to the Seattle etailer in 2005 and then went to work for them. In 2007, says Davis, the original founders of Book Surge got back together in their hometown of Chareston, S.C., to start BiblioLab with the focus of reducing the costs of making historical books available via POD.

“We didn’t do much with digital in the early days,” says Davis, “because most of the devices were E Ink and we just didn’t think they would do justice to historical artifacts. The iPad changed all of that.”

The company’s first digital product, The British Library’s 19th Century Historical Books app (which made the institution’s 65,000 digitized books from that period available globally to subscribers), was launched in 2011. It was downloaded 250,000 times in its first two weeks of availability and has tens of thousands of users.

“It was a creative and critical success,” says Davis. “But we really hadn’t figured out how to scale it and turn it into a sustainable business. We put all of our learning from that project into BiblioBoard.”

With the subsequent launch of BiblioBoard Creator, a free authoring tool, the company has lowered the cost and infrastructure barriers to turning rich historical information into curated collections. “We’re talking to some publishers,” says Davis, “but we’re mostly focusing on libraries, museums, historical societies and associations— anyone who has digitized historical objects that maybe they’re making available on the web in some kind of older-school way but who don’t really have the budget nor the will, honestly, to do the tech project management to build native apps to distribute content on devices.”

Once content sets are created and made available for sale on the BiblioBoard app, the company shares revenue with the creating institutions. Libraries can also subscribe to BiblioBoard as a database and allow patrons access to the content. “Everything that the library subscribes to shows up on the patron’s tablet,” says Davis. “And there’s no concept of check-out and returns and all the other things that force libraries to deliver a chunky experience on a tablet.”

“We don’t have Fifty Shades of Grey or James Patterson,” says Davis of BiblioBoard’s aims. “What we have is historical artifacts that have been curated by experts. “ —Brian Howard

Ownshelf:

All Your Books, All In their Place

For Rick Marazzani, the idea for Ownshelf—a service that allows users to share ebooks across devices and among friends— originated at home.

After taking his household completely digital— “no more DVDs, no more CD players, no more books, except for the baby who had board books but likes playing on the iPad”— Marazzani grew frustrated trying to share titles across the various e-readers and tablets his family members possessed.

“I wanted a way to replace the old-fashioned bookshelf,” says Marazzani, who comes to the book world via the video game industry. “I wanted something to let you show off what you’re reading, see it and interact with it. To grab a book from any device and not have to go through the hassle of DRM.”

The result is Ownshelf, a platform-slash-social network to which users can upload any DRM-free EPUB file and then share across their own devices as well as with friends. Which means that right now, Ownshelf is a repository of works from publishers who, as Marazzani puts it, “understand that DRM limitations are not user and customer friendly.”

For now, Ownshelf is in beta: Titles purchased through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks or any other walled garden can’t be uploaded and accessed through the platform, though Marazzani and Co. Are trying to devise a solution to that sticky wicket.

On the horizon for the web-based Ownshelf, which users sign into via Facebook accounts, are native apps for iOS and Android, a cloud-reading platform (at present, Ownshelf is essentially a file locker), alternative sign-in options and more sophisticated sorting and filtering. “Say you have Fifty Shades of Grey and you’re embarrassed that your friends will see it,” says Marazzani. “Maybe you can hide certain books from them.”

What separates Ownshelf from other file-sharing technologies like SugarSync, DropBox and good oldfashioned ftp is the social discoverability aspect. “The goal of Ownshelf is to have your real friends recommend books to you,” says Marazzani. “There are lots of ways to get books from strangers, but we want you using your real name and your real friends. When you’re deciding what to read next, having your friends there is important.”

Marazzani envisions Ownshelf, in addition to being a great way to discover books, as a great way to have one’s own books discovered. His target author is one he calls the “professional working author, one who realizes that the business is to write the book and to get people to pay them for reading the book. They embrace new technology and ideas like giving away new chapters, or giving away the first book in a series. … I’m also looking for authors who have a huge back catalog where maybe an older title is selling 12 copies a year. There’s no long tail for that book, so let’s give it away for free and increase the tail of your current books.”

—Brian Howard

Pubslush:

Crowdfunding Plus Analytics Equals Author Incubator

When Pubslush started, it launched as more or less a Kickstarter for book projects, with books that met their funding goals being published exclusively by Pubslush. But the company relaunched last year with a different angle on its concept. Think of Pubslush now as part book incubator, and part market intelligence provider.

“When we relaunched, we wanted to be a friend to everyone in the industry,” says Amanda Barbara, development director at Pubslush. “With the old model, we were in competition.”

Authors can still test the viability of a book project, but they remain free to negotiate a deal with any publisher they want. And through the new Pubslush Pro, publishers and agents can use the platform to test market viability as well.

“Smaller publishers who only debut 10-12 titles a year who are not sure if a book idea will be successful can put the book on here and do presale before they put out 10, 20 or 30 thousand [dollars] of their own money,” explains Barbara.

Publishers and agents as well as authors can mine the demographic data to make decisions about which books to publish and how to market them.

The team at Pubslush sees their platform as a bridge of sorts between selfpublishers who’d like a traditional publisher, and those traditional publishers.

“Twenty thousand books get produced by Lulu per month,” says Barbara. “There are all these authors that never get read. We see Pubslush as a place for authors to raise funds, get advice, and get help to make it successful. We also see it as a place for publishers to discover new talent.”

The company is also planning to launch this summer a freelance marketplace, where authors who’ve had projects picked up can cull an editorial team. And as the company prepared to publish its first book, Ali Berlinski’s A Beautiful Mess (pubslush.com/books/ id/7), Pubslush has announced it will donate, for every copy of the book sold, a copy to a child in need.

—Brian Howard

LeLivro:

Ebooks to the World

Like Byliner, Lelivro is an idea inspired by an author. On a visit to family in Israel 18 months ago, online entrepreneur Ilan Klein met with prizewinning Israeli poet Moshe Ben Harosh, who mentioned that readers were telling him they were unable to locate ebook versions of his books. Ben Harosh suggested the need for a global online ebook marketplace. Klein was skeptical, but after conducting some research, determined that the need did indeed exist, and set about building the solution.

“I was persuaded to take the challenge,” he says, although it was “not simple to do.” Difficulties have included the technical challenges of making it easy for authors to upload their books and start their own stores, creating an environment that’s inviting for readers, as well as the complexities of issues related to payment and taxation.

Lelivro, Klein hopes, will make up for a situation where “a lot of publishers don’t support ebooks as they could or as they should, and there are a bunch of authors who think they can do better, sell more copies, and make more money.” Lelivro enables transactions directly between writer and reader. “It’s a combination of you can make money as an author and [as a reader] you can connect strongly with the authors,” Klein explains.

“In a way, we are all authors now,” he says, referring to the many people who have a story or a book in them. Klein’s idea is to make it easy for authors to reach, and develop an ongoing relationship with, their readers. In the beginning, he says, he thought his users were going to be mostly self-published authors, but now he thinks otherwise, and is seeing interest from authors who are already published, many of whom own rights to their ebooks.

Each author makes his or her own page, and can include personal and media information as well as social media feeds. The company also employs technology that allows the author to sign and personalize the book for a buyer, with a version coming that allows one to sign on a cellphone using a fingertip.

When asked what, as a newcomer to the industry, he thinks of publishing, Klein replied: “Shocking!” He’s pleased to come into what he sees as an industry in turmoil but ripe for innovation, particularly in the area of ebooks. “The role of the publisher is changing right before our eyes,” says Klein. He’s optimistic about providing a service that can provide authors a role in building out the market for ebooks.

—Lynn Rosen

Read the full article at http://digitaleditions.napco.com/article/Startup+Showcase/1341917/150209/article.html.

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