Posted on March 21, 2014 in Archive

Digital publishing connects content from creators to consumers


Many great books never get published, while there are many others that maybe shouldn’t have been published at all. Determining bestsellers from the not-so-good reads is a gamble for both the author and publisher, and can cost both a lot of money – only to have the book potentially not make any sales at all. The internet however, has changed the face of publishing. Facebook and other social media sites have been key platforms for authors to spam their works in order to gain recognition but distribution movements are leaping forward once again as three digital publishing startups are attempting to change the game for both the author and reader.

The potential game changers in the industry – Inkshares, Aerbook and Beacon are bidding to achieve different innovative content-to-reader platforms using crowdfunding to find the next best seller. This process will make money for the authors along the way, which can then lead to the publishing of their story while avoiding high distribution and advertising costs. And with the crowdsourced dollars already backing the project, the authors no longer have to fund the publishing costs from their own pockets. Each of the companies are doing this in slightly different ways, though all are solving the same related problems.

A woman reading on a Kindle

Authors are able to target readers and promote their work to a worldwide audience.

California-based company Beacon have launched a platform that lets independent writers publish their work and get paid for it via reader subscriptions. So readers will pay $5 per month to the website which then allows them access to every story on the site. This gives the reader the power to follow their favourite writers and fund the stories that they want to read, producing subscription revenue.

Top performers can earn as much as $5,000 per month in bonuses as 60-75% of the revenue earned goes directly to the writers themselves. One problem that has already arisen is that stories that have already been published on other platforms cannot be placed on the website due to strict ownership rights. So it is only stories that the writers have complete ownership of that can be published on Beacon.

Inkshares has quite a similar aim. Authors pitch parts of their stories to the readers who then fund the ones they deem to be a good read, resulting in the stories being published as either an ebook, in print, or both. The readers are in a sense making an investment into a project they would get something out of. By already having strong readership before the book is even published gives both the author and publishers confidence that the book will sell. The authors receive a share of 70% in royalties, compared to the measly 10 to 35% received through traditional publishing formats. Overall their aim is to pay writers more and cost readers less.

Aerbook has a slightly different approach as it allows writers to upload their book files to the website which converts them to its format. They can also use the Aerbook Maker to add photos, audio, video, text boxes and animation to create pages however they like. The creator can then print and export the content onto the major ebook formats. Pages from the book can then be shared anywhere on the web, such as on social media websites, where audiences can preview them and are then able to make a purchase. Executive Ron Martinez says it has been described as the “Amazon for Twitter”, as Aerbook allows direct-to-fan sales.

So is crowdsourcing the future of publishing then?

Publishing was previously very unpredictable but with crowdsourcing as a new testing platform publishing companies are able to see which stories are sure to sell and can in turn avoid those that are not as popular. With their works in the making gaining readers and subscriptions before completion, authors too are able to learn what their readers enjoy and publishers can then plan for future investments. It is especially good for up and coming authors to gain heightened exposure.

By engaging readers worldwide in the book’s progress early on and showing that their opinions and feedback are valued, authors can build a strong, supportive fan base who feel a sense of achievement in the book’s success. So the consumer’s increasing power prevails.