Way back at the first of February I posted a short blog entry about Storybundle, a new ebook distribution platform/model being spearheaded by Jason Chen (formerly of Gizmodo and Lifehacker). Over the next couple of weeks we traded a few emails, resulting in the following interview about his thoughts on how Storybundle will work and whether or not it might be something that Libraries should watch. Here’s the interview, reconstructed from the emails (italics are me):
I clearly see the benefit for readers here…DRM free + name your price. But what is the draw for authors, given that Amazon will give them 70% + it’s clearly the 800 pound gorilla of eyeballs on books. Why would an author choose to list their book with StoryBundle?
Yes, Amazon is a fantastic delivery service for books, and I don't plan on competing with Amazon as a platform. StoryBundle's not meant to be an outlet for all books, but rather, one that picks and chooses titles that are of high quality (and hopefully others will agree). Think of it more like a promotional thing, getting quality books for a low price for a limited time, rather than a storefront. As you probably know, the indie games bundles only last about 2 weeks or so, which is the timeframe I'm looking at for our bundles.
As to why authors would want to participate? At worst, It takes nothing away from their sales, because it's a limited time promo, and they can continue selling their book elsewhere however they see fit. At best, it's a tremendous way to reach people who otherwise would have no idea these books existed, because discovery, even on Amazon, is difficult. Having stuff bundled together is a "more than the sum of its parts" kind of scenario, where people can get exposed to titles they didn't even know they liked by virtue of it being in the bundle.
There are a number of startups in the library world that are trying to find models for ebooks that work with libraries (http://unglue.it and http://libraryrenewal.org are just a couple of them…full disclosure, I’m on the Board of Directors of Library Renewal). Do you envision StoryBundle providing books under a license that would allow libraries to purchase and circulate your ebooks? Do you see something like unglue.it working to feed books into your system?
As to whether or not this is good for libraries, at the current time I hadn't even considered libraries, so I'm going to aim for personal use for the first few bundles and see where things go from there. It depends heavily on the author, because the promo is a limited time thing, and making a sale to a library becomes a forever thing.
That said, I really do wish there were more ebooks available to libraries, from a reader standpoint. I don't know how to do this equitably, because unlike real books where there are a finite amount of "stuff" to be lent around, there's no physical barrier to just lending out as many copies of ebooks as possible to readers. The problem comes in how the author gets compensated.
I would really, really love a Netflix style subscription system for ebooks. If libraries could somehow tap into this model, that would ensure authors get compensated for each person that checks out their work. Again, I have zero knowledge of how the library system works in terms of ebooks, so this is way out there, but it'd be fantastic as a reader.
In any case, if you have any ideas as to how StoryBundle could work well with libraries, let me know! I'm not ruling it out, I just haven't thought of a good plan yet. :)
You say “deliver to your ereader”…how are you planning that step? Direct delivery to Kindle via email?
I haven't finalized the delivery service, but the obvious and easiest way is to take advantage of Kindle's email system. That's one of the systems I'm looking at. The easiest, of course, is to have people download and sideload the books onto their devices, which we'll have as well. (Useful for tablets and readers that don't have the Kindle app.)
How are you planning to select for quality? Crowdsourcing? Independent reviews? Librarians?
Quality is a good question. I'll be relying on reviews as well as my own indicator of quality--as in, I'm going to be reading these books myself. :) I'm also planning other fun things like curation by cool people and sites, but I don't want to say so-and-so is going to participate before we're ready.
Will people know the titles before purchasing? Or is this more of a CSA style, where you pay a set price and get curated stuff sent your way?
People will know what they're getting, just like the indie bundles, and people will get a little preview as well as being able to read reviews.
Thanks to Jason for getting back to me, and here’s hoping we continue to see new and exciting models emerging for books over the next few years.