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Go Read This | A New Kind of Publisher: On Merging Creative Industries

A nice post from Zoe Faulder about how publishers are positioned for the “third generation” of ebooks:

There is a third generation of ebooks that exists but is far less prolific than the previous two generations – primarily due to cost. Unlike a straight text ebook, or even enhanced ebooks to a degree, this generation cannot be tacked on to the existing production cycles and requires completely new skill-sets. The third generation of ebooks has been called apps, but I would argue that there is more to it than what we have come to expect of applications available in the iTunes App and Google Play stores. The third generation of ebooks is about taking the content and spinning it into something grander than its original form. It encompasses all the tools made available in today’s networked world. Ebooks could become immersive digital experiences based on locative media, social interaction, interactive narrative and gamification.

via A New Kind of Publisher: On Merging Creative Industries.

Moving Up The Value Chain: How Digital Publishing Disrupts

A good while ago now (nearly 2 and half years I think) I wrote a piece called Whither Publishing In The Twenty Teens? It looked at the changes in publishing which I argued were being driven by digital publishing over the internet.

I made a prediction in that post:

3) Quality and curation will deliver rewards (so firing editors may be self-defeating) in the long-term, if you survive the shakeout. Given the proliferation of poorly written/created content, acknowledged quality will be a valuable feature as will good filtering capabilities (as we can already see).

The point here was that value could be created through curation of content, whether that meant building a dedicated niche in one topic or aggregating content from one specific area or doing that across many topics at once, but ensuring depth and value in each.

At the time I was interested in how traditional publishers might adapt their print curation to online and digital curation, something several have done well and others have not. I saw both an opportunity and a challenge to traditional publishers in the new curation.

I stand by the thrust of it, but I think I failed to make clearly enough a subtle point about that prediction. That is, that as blogs and websites gained credibility and status, they could quite easily move up the value chain towards the same kinds of products traditional media/publishers currently produce. If they show that THEIR curation is at least as effective and valuable as that of the traditional publishers is, then they can benefit from that prediction as much as anyone. It’s the classic example of a disruptive player moving up the value chain and it is happening before our eyes. What’s more, because they were coming from a smaller cost base, they can likely do it more competitively than traditional book publishers.

In many ways, it is the problem newspaper and magazine publishers have been facing for a long time, writing itself all over the face of book publishing. It’s a slightly different type of problem from the issue of self publishers growing in confidence and ability  (equipped as they are now with more tools to aid the creation, distribution and sale of their books). We are talking here about content producers designed around the web, using the web as a platform and building their content offering off a low-cost base and often offering most of that service for free to web surfers.

Demand Media has just announced the launch of two series of ebooks one on wine varietals and the other on pets. I recall how Demand was viewed when it first came to prominence, a content farm, and in some ways it has never shaken off that description, but with this move it shows that its low-cost model can deliver content that has pricing power and provides value.

Here’s how Jeremy Reed discussed their new effort:

As the digital landscape continues to change and new concepts are introduced, we’ve stayed focused on the still important idea of connecting people with knowledge through various media. The shift to smartphones and tablets has opened opportunities for new content formats, and the lines that once separated how people consume content — on television, in print, via online or through mobile devices — have all but disappeared.

The eBooks we’re releasing today exemplify this change. For people interested in learning about the vast world of wine or the intricacies of pet ownership, our collection of eBooks offers a modern alternative to what’s offered online or on shelves today.

Demand Media has taken almost the reverse approach of traditional publishers, but the more traditional approach (in the sense that the content being commissioned is specially created for books rather than created for multiple purposes, one of which may, at a future point, be books) also gets attention today with the funding announcement for Open Air Publishing:

Open Air believes it can disrupt traditional publishing faster. The New York-based startup has published four books. Priced between $5 and $10, all of them have at least broken even, and all of them have taken just three to four months to produce.

Now, with $800,000 in seed backing from SV Angel, 500 Startups, Charles River Ventures, Social+Capital Partnership, David Tisch, Advancit Capital, and others, he’s set to release a total of nine ebooks by the end of the year.

There is a huge amount of room for different models in the market and there will be customers for both the higher end products produced by Open Air and the cheaper ebooks created by Demand. However, in terms of scale and, I would wager, profitability, I think Demand has the game in hand. Certainly, I’d be betting any investment on them rather than on Open Air. After all their bottom up creation model means that a rigorous selection and filtering model combined with some judicious article creation around perceived gaps can result in far quicker production and, most crucially, the creation of ebooks without incurring extra cost (because the content is presumably being reused in other ways).

The Demand Media model for non-fiction publishing looks a lot like moving up the value chain from lower order prospects. In the same way the moves by the likes of GigaOm to start selling ebooks as a standalone product show two things, firstly that their reputation has created value in their brand and people trust it (their curation and editing and credibility) and also that what started as a threat to magazine publishers and newspapers is now a threat to technology and general book publishers.

GigaOm’s move shows the versatility of that publisher’s content too. Their offering now encompasses free content (ad-supported of course so not FREE free), premium subscriber content (their Pro offering) and what might be described as their mid-range content, their new ebook range. This comes close to the Publishing Continuum I first heard Dominique Raccah talk about and certainly does so from a surprising direction at least for traditional publishers. Whereas publishers might have seen GigaOm journalists as potential authors on their lists at some point in the future, it seems clear that GigaOm journalist are at least as likely to be published by their own home imprints.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the internet IS creating direct competition for new non-fiction books exactly as has been predicted that it would. Another short paragraph I wrote two years ago seems relevant if sadly telling now:

The challenge for most publishers is first to realize there IS a challenge and that responding to it is less about social media, ebooks and fancy apps (though they all have a role) and more about rethinking the way you conceive content and how and where you deploy that content to engage and build an audience.

If the world of publishing doesn’t seem to be moving very rapidly, that’s only because you are looking in the wrong direction.

From a very, very, rainy Dublin!
Eoin

Go Read This | Exclusive: How Much Do Kindle Singles Authors Make? | paidContent

One of two absolute MUST READ pieces on PaidContent today about Amazon’s Kindle Singles program. A complete coup for Laura Hazard Owen and the rest of the crew over there. The pieces are filled with gold of which the below is only a small amount:

When I got my first royalty check from Amazon, I went to my boss at the bar and was like, “Mike, I quit, dude,” and he was like why, and I was like “Look at this check, man,” and he said, “I’d quit too.”

This is what I’m doing now. My three stories that are out have now sold in excess of 93,000 copies, and I have another Kindle Single that I’m working on for later this year, and hopefully working on a book.

via Exclusive: How Much Do Kindle Singles Authors Make? | paidContent.

There’s so much here but I think it warrants a bit of thought before I blog about it properly!

Eoin

Go Read This | HarperCollins’ Acquisition Of Thomas Nelson Is An Investment In Digital | paidContent

You should read the full piece, but I don’t buy the logic. HC would be far better off spending considerably less on a decent design/code house that would bring expertise inside or even in buying the time of an outside house in full than attempting to integrate a large publisher facing all the same issues it faces itself to acquire digital innovation know-how. Two better reasons present themselves for this move, the first, content acquisition and lots of it and the second defensive market consolidation.

HarperCollins is acquiring Christian publisher Thomas Nelson—publisher of the mega-bestselling Heaven Is For Real—for an undisclosed sum in a deal that will be finalized by the end of the year. Thomas Nelson has been on the forefront of experimentation with digital publishing, and HarperCollins is buying not just the company but also that digital experience.

via HarperCollins’ Acquisition Of Thomas Nelson Is An Investment In Digital | paidContent.

The Opportunity Apple Just Created For Publishers

Apple did book big book publishers a favour some time ago when, by giving the big six leverage over Amazon (with the launch of their new ebook platform iBooks), they enabled those large publishers to enforce Agency pricing for ebooks.

That gave the big six the power to set prices and extract a higher share of the revenue from their sales then had been the case for print books. It was a major moment in the development of the ebook market and one that has received a lot of attention and, at least from within the industry, a lot of praise.

Apple’s more recent decision to enforce tough rules on in-App sales of content has been less popular. It has forced Amazon, Google, B&N and Kobo among others in publishing and other creative industries, to change their Apps to disable links to their ebook or content stores. Further it made it impossible for an ebook retailer to sell an ebook through the Apple in-App purchase system without giving 30% to Apple. Nasty eh?

The opportunity this created and that everyone missed , even me (till this weekend when it dawned on me), is for publishers to go direct to consumers and launch their own apps selling ebooks to readers.

Think about it, ebook retailers cannot make money from selling ebooks via Apple’s in-App sales because their margins simply won’t stretch that far. In the case of Agency titles they would be losing money, even on self-published works they might be losing money. However, a publisher, selling direct through their own app, or even a branded app in partnership with a number of other publishers in a given genre, could easily afford the 30% charge and even an administration charge too so long as it was kept low.

Apple has shifted the economics of the App-economy to disintermediate the distributors and empower the content producer. Sure, in doing so they have gained power and revenue potential for themselves, but they have created an opportunity for a savvy publisher who has a brand that readers identify with.

It’s interesting that no-one has written about this yet. I suspect that might be because some of them are working on just that kind of app …

Fine evening here,
Eoin

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Ebury reveals Less Ordinary digital list | The Bookseller

There’ll be a lot more of this, or at least you’d hope there will be, as publishers look to profit from their existing content in more ways. This is a pretty good example of what an established player can do with a bit of application and thought:

Ebury has launched a digital imprint, initially focusing on abridged versions of Eburys narrative non-fiction titles, called Lives Less Ordinary. Deputy publisher Andrew Goodfellow is behind the new range of digital shorts, which has begun by releasing 10 titles. The titles will be from 3,000 to 20,000 words, and will be priced under £1.99 on a sliding scale, according to length.The launch titles comprise How to Understand Paul Gascoigne by Danny Baker, How to Win the Worlds Greatest Road Race by Mark Cavendish, How to be an NYPD Drugs Cop by Edward Conlon, How to Hunt an LA Gangland Killer by Miles Corwin, How to Seduce Marilyn Monroe by Tony Curtis, How to Escape a Taliban Ambush by Paul Grahame and Damien Lewis, How to Become an Internet Billionaire by David Kirkpatrick, How to Survive on Tour With a Rock Band by Stuart Maconie, How to Live Forever by Sue Nelson and Richard Hollingham and How to be a Modern Man by Danny Wallace.

via Ebury reveals Less Ordinary digital list | The Bookseller.