Book Business May/June 2013 : Page 8
Future Think Epublishing software, online curation and the coursepack reenvisioned BookBu B ( JUNE buzz Pub G Putting Price Promotions in Readers’ Inboxes iven the exponential proliferation of free and cheap digital content in the marketplace — to say nothing of the plat-forms upon which one can consume that content — it’s never much of a challenge to find something to read. But finding something you want to read at a great price? Therein lies the rub. Enter BookBub, a Cam-bridge-based email recom-mendation engine that de-livers daily ebook deals, for titles across a wide range of platforms, to its million-plus members based on their tastes and interests. “Historically, publish-ing houses have marketed directly to bookstores, and bookstores have then mar-keted to consumers,” says Josh Schanker, president and founder of BookBub. “With ebooks, now that every book is available everywhere at any time on any device, it’s no longer about getting the retailers to carry you, for a publisher, it’s about creating awareness about your books, getting your books discov-ered directly, marketing di-rectly to the consumer.” While discoverability is a problem publishers are trying to untangle, Schanker sees it as an issue for readers as well. “Sadly, as a lot of independent bricks and mortar stores are closing down, there are fewer opportunities for a reader to discover books,” says Schanker. “We’ve found that one of the main reasons that readers sign up for our service is because they were looking for some-estingly, Schanker estimates one to curate for them and that more than half purchase on multiple platforms, and help them discover books.” Which is to say that more than half don’t pur-BookBub has an edito-chase from Amazon at all. BookBub works with rial component; it’s selec-big publishers, as well tive about the books as with indie publish-it price-promotes to ers and individual au-its members. “We are thors. With big hous-a screening mecha-es, “they’ll contact us nism,” says Schanker. and let us know their “We will only pro-price promotions for mote acclaimed e-Josh Schanker books. We see BookBub not the next month, then we tell only as a way to save money, them which would work but to get limited-time dis-best with our audience,” says counts on acclaimed books.” Schanker. “Then we go back When readers sign up, and forth on a plan.” Smaller they select preferences for publishers and authors tend genre and platforms. Inter-to work with BookBub on a per-promotion basis. Schanker, who’s got a background in digital media entrepreneurship but started his career as a bookseller for Walden Books, sees Book-Bub’s daily emails as falling in that fuzzy area where advertising and editorial, content marketing and mer-chandising all meet. BookBub is presently experimenting with provid-ing analytics to its publisher partners, tracking things like member click-throughs, how many additional reader reviews books received, and how many other books in ▲ 8 JUNE 2013 | BOOK BUSINESS
Brian G. Howard And Lynn Rosen
Epublishing Software, Online Curation And The Coursepack Reenvisioned
Putting Price Promotions in Readers' Inboxes
Given the exponential proliferation of free and cheap digital content in the marketplace - to say nothing of the platforms upon which one can consume that content - it's never much of a challenge to find something to read. But finding something you want to read at a great price? Therein lies the rub.
Enter BookBub, a Cambridge- based email recommendation engine that delivers daily ebook deals, for titles across a wide range of platforms, to its million-plus members based on their tastes and interests.
"Historically, publishing houses have marketed directly to bookstores, and bookstores have then marketed to consumers," says Josh Schanker, president and founder of BookBub. "With ebooks, now that every book is available everywhere at any time on any device, it's no longer about getting the retailers to carry you, for a publisher, it's about creating awareness about your books, getting your books discovered directly, marketing directly to the consumer."
While discover ability is a problem publishers are trying to untangle, Schanker sees it as an issue for readers as well. "Sadly, as a lot of independent bricks and mortar stores are closing down, there are fewer opportunities for a reader to discover books," says Schanker. "We've found that one of the main reasons that readers sign up for our service is because They were looking for someone to curate for them and help them discover books."
Which is to say that BookBub has an editorial component; it's selective about the books it price-promotes to its members. "We are a screening mechanism," says Schanker. "We will only promote acclaimed ebooks. We see BookBub not only as a way to save money, but to get limited-time discounts on acclaimed books."
When readers sign up, they select preferences for genre and platforms. Interestingly, Schanker estimates that more than half purchase on multiple platforms, and more than half don't purchase from Amazon at all.
BookBub works with big publishers, as well as with indie publishers and individual authors. With big houses, "they'll contact us and let us know their price promotions for the next month, then we tell them which would work best with our audience," says Schanker. "Then we go back and forth on a plan." Smaller publishers and authors tend to work with BookBub on a per-promotion basis.
Schanker, who's got a background in digital media entrepreneurship but started his career as a bookseller for Walden Books, sees Book- Bub's daily emails as falling in that fuzzy area where advertising and editorial, content marketing and merchandising all meet.
BookBub is presently experimenting with providing analytics to its publisher partners, tracking things like member click-throughs, how many additional reader reviews books received, and how many other books in The same series as a promoted title were sold.
"Our goal is to put together the best possible daily email," says Schanker. "We think of ourselves as advertorial. That's fundamentally what it is. It isn't an e-saver type of thing. They're listings for books that are paid promotions from publishing houses, but we curate which of those listings we accept. We turn down more than half of the ones submitted to us every day. We could have a lot more business if we wanted to lower our standards." - Brian G. Howard
For more on working with BookBub, visit bookbub.com/ advertise.
A Media and a Software Company
Atavist, a multimedia storytelling platform which launched in January 2011, has received acclaim for its unique mix of long form journalism and an innovative content management system. In fact, the company has already received high-profile investment backing from the likes of Marc Andreessen and Google's Eric E. Schmidt. Co-founder, CEO and editor Evan Ratliff says: "We are this kind of hybrid outfit in that we're not solely focused on software or publishing. We are a media and a software company."
This media/software combo wasn't in the original plan. The initial goal was to be an innovator in the space called long form journalism, pieces of 5,000 to 30,000 words meant to be read in one sitting. "We started as an outfit that just wanted to do publishing, and a certain type of publishing: These short [pieces] between book and magazine [length]," says Ratliff - books that would be "multimedia" and "enhanced." "In order to that, we ended up developing our own publishing software to publish to multiple devices at the same time."
Acting as publishers under The Atavist name, they're putting out original long form nonfiction journalism. As software producers, they've created and are constantly improving upon a product called Creatavist that makes "multimedia stories for apps, ebooks, and the Web" integrating text, audio, video and interactivity. "Both sides help each other," Ratliff explains. "We push forward the software To publish new things then use it to incorporate something, say interactive graphics, more seamlessly." Creatavist is now being used by high-profile partners such as TED, The Paris Review and The Wall Street Journal.
While the number of players in the long form market is growing, Atavist was an early entry. "A lot of things we do that are prevalent now," says Ratliff, "no one was doing when we started." Among their accomplishments: very tightly integrated video; as well as integrated print and audio; and layered-in additional information, such as timelines or footnotes that the reader can turn on and off. "That's a signature thing we're known for - this layer of additional material that you can put on top of the story."
The company has just "quietly" launched the open beta version of their Creatavist platform, which means "any author or publishing company can sign up and use it directly from the web." It's more of what Ratliff calls a "self-serve" approach. His plan is to stay out in front, following up in 2014 with full-length Atavist Books, a joint venture with Barry Diller. "Our goal is to be the among the most, if not the most, innovative companies in the area." - Lynn Rosen
For more on Atavist, visit atavist.com
Tending the Future of Online Learning
As the Book Industry Study Group report "Student Attitudes Toward Content in Higher Education" suggests, things are changing, and fast, for higher education publishing. And the Supreme Court's decision in Kirtsaeng V. Wiley is only going to hasten the speed at which higher ed publishers move to digital platforms for course content.
Enter GinkgoTree, a fresh-faced start-up from a group of former academics who, after bemoaning the lack of a cheaper alternative to expensive textbooks and a more elegant alternative to online course packs, decided that theirs was the solution they were waiting for.
Described by The Atlantic as "a Tumblr for making your own textbooks" and intended to be a complete textbook replacement, GinkgoTree's team set out to make it as easy as possible for instructors to pull almost any content, be it from a book, journal, newspaper, pdf, video, Web site, online resource or Word, PowerPoint or Excel document, into a streamlined online course.
"We started about a year ago and we pivoted through several other possible ideas and finally landed on bringing course packs to the digital world correctly,"
Says Scott Hasbrouck, CEO and Founder of the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based company. "We'd seen a couple of other academic publishers attempt this and they'd failed to expand on what a course pack is with regard to what you can do with technology. We created something that's more of an online curriculum than a course pack."
GinkgoTree's integration with Filepicker.io makes it easy to bring in documents from services such as Gmail, Google Drive, Evernote and Drop Box. Integration with Copyright Clearance Center makes obtaining licenses and permissions for many books and publications - on a per-page basis - relatively painless.
"We handle all of the billing and fees to publishers for you," says Hasbrouck, whose background is in science, but who has dabbled in entrepreneurship. (Income from Hasbrouck's iPad productivity app Paper Desk helped finance development.) "I was working on a Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of Georgia. I was just a lowly TA and I managed to really see a lot of the problems in higher education from an instructor's standpoint," he explains. "Between that and my frustrations as an undergraduate paying beaucoup bucks for course materials," Hasbrouck decided to follow his start-up bliss.
GinkgoTree works in all Web browsers, based on the fact that while upward of 90 percent of students use laptops, student tablet adoption is still just around 6 or 7 percent. It can also integrate with Blackboard.
"Building a native tablet app is sexy, but it doesn't make sense right now. We're not going to build something for a market that doesn't exist," says Hasbrouck. "It works on the iPad in the Safari browser, but it works best on a laptop browser."
The four-person team is still in "the bootstrapping phase," and has around 300 instructors at what Hasbrouck estimates are 150 different universities using the platform. They've got a pilot program in place at Spring Harbor University and will begin focusing on institution- wide adoption after an initial push to get individual instructors on board. "We really just wanted to prove interest and build something that solves a problem," says Hasbrouck. - Brian G. Howard
To experiment with GinkgoTree, visit ginkgotree.com.
A Fiction Publisher That's All "E"
Publerati, founded in June 2012, publishes original literary fiction exclusively in ebook format. Founder Caleb Mason held several traditional publishing jobs in the 1980s at Little, Brown and start-up Salem House Publishers, then "crossed over into technology" and "caught the heyday of software publishing in the '90s." It was the arrival of the iPad that spurred Mason's decision to return to book publishing. "I saw my first iPad a few years ago and read a book on it, and thought, 'This is going to be amazing for books. I gotta figure out how to do something with this.'"
He learned many lessons from his years at Konica Minolta and DeLorme, lessons that are now informing his publishing decisions, as he experienced the era of digital disruption in the photography industry. "I understand what it's like to be within an industry and looking around wondering, 'What's going to happen?'" Mason comments on how this disruption can often Come from unexpected sources: "It wasn't the digital camera that had the biggest impact on traditional photography - it was the [mobile] phone."
The company has seven books published and four more coming soon, including a new novel, Thanksgiving, from author Ellen Cooney, who has previously been published by Random House and other big trade houses.
Publerati is based not on a traditional book publisher's financial model but is instead structured like an agency: "I'm only taking 10 percent of proceeds." Mason keeps the book prices low ($2.99 for most), but "even with a $5 book they make the same amount of money they make with a traditional print contract." Then, like a literary agency, he will seek to sell other rights to other publishers, for example, for the print edition. In addition, Publerati donates a portion of its proceeds to literacy organization Worldreader, which provides free ereaders to children and teachers across Sub-Saharan Africa.
Mason sees himself as part of a new breed of "micropublishers," and likes the freedom of being "on the outside." He is cautiously optimistic about the future. "I have a great feeling in my gut about what we are doing. … Nobody knows where any of this stuff is going, and that's what's so much fun about it: the chance to do things differently." - Lynn Rosen
For more on Publerati, visit publerati.com
Read the full article at http://digitaleditions.napco.com/article/Future+Think/1400254/159126/article.html.
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