From Pete’s Desk is a blog series by Peter Hudson, co-founder and CEO at BitLit.
Last week I was in Toronto for the BookNetCanada Tech Forum. I enjoyed all of the talks, but the one point in the Robert Levine‘s talk really gave me pause for thought. Robert is the author of “Free Ride – How Technology Companies are Killing the Culture Business“. The point that Robert made was in comparing the way that the movie industry and the book publishing industry are able to monetize a piece of creative work. In the movie business there are many avenues of revenue for a single piece of creative content: Cinema release, DVD & BluRay release, premium cable (HBO), regular cable, Netflix, late night cable, repertory theaters, etc… In the book publishing world there are now three (up from two just a few years ago): Hardcover, paperback, and eBook.
There was a good deal of discussion at the BNC Tech Forum about breaking out of the standard “book package” as a way to drive more revenue in publishing. Nick Garrison from Penguin, Robert Wheaton from Random House, and Susan Renouf from The Toronto Star participated in an interesting panel discussion about the idea of “e-Singles” — basically quick turn around essays published online weekly to subscribers. I like the idea of e-Single in principal. One of the reasons I love The Economist for news is that because it is published weekly, the editors and correspondents have time to do research and write insightfully. Research and insight are sorely missing in journalism these days, but they’ve never left books.
I don’t want to pour cold water on the innovation in length and publication cycle of e-Singles. However, I think there certainly is more that can be done with what publishers already have: books. The idea of adding a fourth revenue stream (companion eBooks) to the traditional Hardcover, paperback, and eBook, is an exciting one for me and I hope for publishers who are looking for ways drive more revenue.