23 January 09 | Chad W. Post

Over at Urban Elitist, David Nygren has put together a description of what a e-book only publishing house could look like. I think David would be the first to admit that this model is neither fully complete or the only possible model, but it’s an interesting scheme, and one that ties into the world view that Lev Grossman recently put forth.

Here are a few of David’s points:

  • eBooks only (or mostly).
  • The publisher accepts authors, not manuscripts.
  • Therefore, authors can publish whatever they feel is necessary: something book-length, something article-length, a short story, a paragraph, a sentence, a poem, a play, a script or a rant. Fiction or non-fiction. Finished or not finished. The idea is not to create and package “books” but rather to create a forum and content delivery system for quality writing that will appeal to a certain type of reader. Think of it almost like a hybrid book/magazine publisher.
  • Most content is free.
  • Most revenue is ad-based. The publisher and the author share revenue from ads on the author’s home page and pages with the author’s content. If content is downloaded to a reading device, it still has the ads. Use either a pay-per-click or pay-per-impression model.
  • Readers can purchase subscriptions to a publisher or to an author. When they do, they get ad-free content and perhaps some value-added content (if such a thing exists). I know, this sounds like Salon.com circa 2004, but just try it and see.
  • Update: Readers can also purchase ad-free content by the unit, rather than buy subscription.
  • It’s not really ebook only. Readers who want to order print-on-demand cheap paperbacks or beautifully well-made hardcovers can do so and pay properly for the privilege. If readers want something, the publisher should gladly take their money for it, at a profit (shared with the author).

Who knows how well this would work (one commenter complains about the ads, claiming that we already have too many in our lives; Wowio has been successful with this, but I wonder how appealing advertising in books like this would be to companies), but it’s an interesting project. And one that involves no bookstore component . . . something that scares me, if this model were ever the dominant model. But that might be more of my fault for clinging to old viewpoints. Perhaps what’s necessary is a corollary scheme laying out what a bookstore (or maybe “book center”?) could look like.

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