Archive for Digital Publishing News
Are consumers too busy to read?
In the ongoing experimentation from newspapers to adapt to a world of digital consumers while still making a profit, the New York Times has announced its newest option: abridged stories from its own publications, and other source around the internet, optimized for mobile device reading. Thanks to a new app, NYT Now, subscribers to the app’s content can access shorter versions of the paper’s full-length articles for a little more than half the cost of a full digital subscription.
This kind of service is perfect for people who want the level of content and slant of journalism that the Times is typically known for, but do not have the time to read full-length editions every day. This as-of-yet untapped level on consumer–the person who wishes he read more books or was more up-to-date on current events, but simply doesn’t have enough time to devote to this type of reading–is becoming a bigger focus among digital publishing platforms; last week, Rooster announced the March 11th launch of its “snippet” reading subscription that lets users consume serialized books at a fraction of the cost of full-size ebook subscriptions, again, optimized for smartphone reading.
While both the NYT Now app and Rooster have set their price points at approximately half of the cost of a typical subscription, in the case of the news app, it may not be far enough. The app still requires a fee of around $8 a month, a price point that people who are already strapped for time may not be willing to pay to scroll through partial articles when that same level of engagement can be had for free by browsing news sites online.
Subscription ebook reading is nothing new. Companies like 24Symbols have been offering Netflix-style reading since as early as 2010, all vying for an all-you-can-eat approach to reading. It’s been difficult to get publishers on board with the concept without a clear structure for royalties, and it’s been equally difficult getting readers to shell out money to consume books when they’ve been happy with their reading options all along.
Now, a new company is launching with a new approach to the subscription model. Instead of trying to target readers with a “read everything you possibly can get your hands on in a month” idea, Rooster is looking at reading as something that consumers can do in bite-sized pieces whenever time allows. To that end, the company is building a platform that offers serialized content optimized for smartphones, for a much lower price than the subscription big boys.
Rooster’s co-founder and editorial director Yael Goldstein Love spoke to Good e-Reader today about the appeal of serialized subscription reading. While much of the content is currently in the public domain or sourced from the company’s other site, Daily Lit, a different model is underway in which classics are paired with contemporary content.
“We’ve been working directly with authors to try to create content that is specifically tailored for the Rooster experience.”
The shorter length of Rooster content is perfect for smartphone reading during snippets of time, something that speaks to the company’s model. Rather than luring consumers with a model that affords them the ability to read mountains of content for one price, Rooster’s clientele is expected to read serialized and novella-length works for far less than the cost of a typical ebook subscription plan.
Rooster is working with publishers to stock novella length or shorter novels, especially titles that just–for one reason or another–just don’t take off in the way that had been anticipated.
“Every publisher has this list of books that they loved so much, that they thought were just going to find an audience and be loved by so many people, but for whatever reason, it just doesn’t pick up or find its audience. It’s just this gem that goes unread. Those are the things we want to find, those books that deserve a second chance.”
While Rooster is in beta at this time, full launch of the site is anticipated for March 11. Users can sign up now for a free two week trial at the company’s website at readrooster.com.
Academic publishers are finding that there’s strength in numbers when it comes to launching digital content for classroom settings. At a SXSWEdu event today, McGraw-Hill Education and StudySync announced a partnership aimed at bringing language arts materials that are aligned with the Common Core Standards to digital environments for teaching.
“With information available at the swipe of a finger, education in the 21st century must engage students to inspire academic excellence and foster creativity. To be successful, students must aspire to higher levels of reading and writing, learn how to build knowledge to support their opinions and think critically as they parse the plethora of material so simply at their disposal,” said Robert Romano, CEO of StudySync. “Our partnership with McGraw-Hill Education serves to address those essential changes in education by bringing together substance and form to produce the best teaching resources possible to help students achieve success in college and career.”
Under the terms of this new collaboration, McGraw-Hill will not only distribute the StudySync platform to its secondary school members, but will also work with the company to generate even more engaging digital learning content. But one of the features that does cause StudySync to stand out in an already crowded marketplace of companies who believe they can do it better is their Blast content, which sends out a weekly writing assignment based around current world events; students around the world can then connect to discuss the writing assignments.
According to Peter Cohen, president of McGraw-Hill School Education Group, “StudySync is a standout product that successfully integrates the latest innovations in technology with effective curriculum and pedagogy for an era of more rigorous educational standards. Combining it with our products and services will help educators not only boost engagement but drive results.”
A number of companies have tried to combat the growing problem of ebook discovery by building daily email lists and book websites, landing pages that are supposed to draw readers in order to discover the latest in publishing. Companies like Libboo have recently launched a daily feature based on traffic generated called The Midlist, designed specifically to highlight worthy books that are getting some traction, while not necessarily being top of the list bestsellers.
Today, Simon&Schuster announced its own version of a discovery mailer called Off The Shelf, but one thing that makes S&S’s site standout is its publisher-agnostic focus. By highlighting a variety of books instead of just their own catalog of titles, the publisher is taking a rather selfless move in the direction of connecting authors and readers.
“While it is very easy to learn about the latest, hot new must-have books, we know from experience that many readers are more interested in what’s relevant to them regardless of its moment in the publishing cycle,” said Carolyn Reidy, President and CEO of Simon & Schuster, in a press release. “With Off the Shelf, we aim to bring attention to books that were bestsellers you might have read or wanted to, books that you may have missed in the often overwhelming number of titles that get published every year, or simply books that have touched us as readers, left an indelible mark on us, and become friends that we revisit often. These are books that are often spine out in stores, buried on a home bookshelf, or deep within library stacks. We hope that shining a new light on them will help others discover a passion for them as well.”
While more than just a mass email featuring a book or two, Off The Shelf will also offer book reviews, guest posts, author interviews, reading lists, videos, and more. For more information or to sign up for the site’s email list, go to OffTheShelf.com.
Sourcebooks’ launch of its fully personalized and customizable enhanced ebook platform Put Me in the Story has become almost as well-known and well-loved as the characters and story lines that it incorporates. Using existing characters and allowing other publishers to use the personalization features for their own titles has opened up a whole world of possibilities in the gift book market, emerging reader applications, and low-interest/low-ability level educational segments.
Now, Sourcebooks has announced a whole new line of much-loved classic characters with the introduction of Charles Schultz’s Peanuts brand into the platform. Using the same tablet technology that has made Put Me in the Story so popular with parents and teachers, readers can now experience Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the entire Peanuts gang in personalized stories.
“We are thrilled to be partnering with Peanuts,” says Dominique Raccah, CEO and publisher of Sourcebooks, in a press release. “By adding these books to the Put Me In The Story personalized platform, we’re giving fans young and old new ways to experience the beloved characters of Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the rest of the gang—a Peanuts story starring YOU!”
“As we continue to build on our strategy of introducing new generations to the Peanuts property, partnering to create stories in new digital formats is key,” said Craig Herman, Executive Director of Publishing for Peanuts Worldwide. “We have no doubt that Sourcebooks is the right partner to create quality products featuring the Schulz characters.”
Two books will be available this year, Good Grief, It’s Your Birthday and Cheer Up, Charlie Brown, both expected to be released in early fall. Future titles are already anticipated, as well as the availability of the print books in physical bookstores.
One of the biggest benefits to the platform is the ability to order the personalized editions of the stories in print, making it a lasting keepsake or special gift for a special reader.
As more people around the world turn to free sources of information and education online, companies like Learnist have sprung to enable access to top content from both user-generated sources and experts in their fields. With the growing numbers of users returning to web-based reading and mobile device consumption, portability is also a must in order to make social learning feasible.
Today, Learnist announced its new app for iPhone and iPod, two devices that have a high level of penetration among consumers and are therefore readily available in classroom settings, even at the public school grade levels. This app has been unveiled in conjunction with Learnist’s news that it is now offering premium Learnboards to its 10 million registered users worldwide, with most content from highly recognized names being made available for as little as 99cents with an in-app purchase.
Good e-Reader spoke to Learnist’s founder and chief product officer Farb Nivi about the launch of both the app and the exciting new content, as well as discussed the importance of enabling this level of fingertip access to educational material that is both relevant and affordable.
“Learnist is basically about people sharing what they know directly with each other. Everything you want to know is available now online, and we couldn’t make that statement even five years ago. We went from nothing on the internet to basically everything we know on the internet, so we came up with the idea for Learnist by letting them share what they know.”
The company’s Learnerboards are fully enhancement-capable stand-alone offerings that can be user created and collaborated, then made available for other learners to use. This has become an especially important tool for classroom teachers and has seen a dedicated following of educators among registered users.
“Learnist is like a crowdsourced collection of the world’s knowledge. And with this update–a completely new app, really–one of the things that we’re very excited about is that we’ll be offering premium content for sale for 99cents from really notable experts.”
These so-called “celebrity” experts who’ve already signed on to contribute content include names like director Gus Van Sant, actress and activist Olivia Wilde, designer Danny Forster, MythBusters TV host Kari Byron, former NFL star Dhani Jones, author Brad Meltzer, and more. Nivi went on to make the point that the speed with which an expert signs on to create a new Learnerboard and then Learnist makes that content available is almost unheard of, sometimes taking place within only a matter of four to six weeks. This helps ensure that the topics available to Learnist users are both timely, and up-to-date in terms of accuracy.
One of the most exciting features of Learnerboards is the dynamic of the content itself. Where consumers initially needed to purchase an entire book or textbook, this content allows users to focus only on the content they need at a far more affordable price point for the content. This premium content, when coupled with the high volume of free content that is also available, enables Learnist to meet the public’s information needs via reliable and practical application sources.
The app is available today for iOS.