How (and why) Publification hopes to take a bite out of Amazon, Apple, and Google

October 25, 2011
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Estonia-born and America-educated, Yrjo Ojassar, 40, sought to create a platform “where every book author, blogger, and consultant can publish, promote, and monetize his or her e-book.” This idea is the driving force behind Publification.com, a Cambridge, England-based startup that hopes to enables self-publishers to create what Ojassar terms a Browserbook.

Publification's e-book publishing platform will enable self-publishers to create, market and sell Browserbooks, which are ePub3-compatible files that open instantly on web browsers worldwide. For readers, this platform will enable customers to, for example, start reading a book on an I-Pad while riding the bus, continue reading at work on a Dell desktop, tweet out a link that shares what they're reading from their mobile Android operating system, and finish reading their book at night on a Kindle.

Publification CEO Ojassar cites a 2002 New York Times article describing a study that concluded 81% of Americans think they could and should write a book. Ojassar firmly believes there are “millions of authors waiting to be discovered,” and he hopes that Publification will enable a portion of this 81% of to not only publish their books, but to also make money in the process.

Authors keep 85% of sales

Publification's business model has a distinct advantage over that of sellers like Amazon (which enables authors to take 35-70% of sales) by giving authors 85% of sales revenue. In reaction to TabTimes’ concern that this would put immediate pressure on the company’s bottom line, Ojassar concedes that in order to make this model work, Publification “will be dependent on very, very rapid scaling.” The other concern is that, until the company builds a critical mass of customers, authors' upside on sales will be limited.

Publification will attempt to simplify the process of uploading, changing settings, and other difficulties that have become the norm with e-publishing. Ojassar says that when a Publification link is clicked, it takes the reader to a page that enables the reader to view any part of the book that the author wishes to display for free, be it a page, chapter, or the work as a whole. At an author-designated point, the reader hits a pay-wall where he/she must decide whether to continue reading via an on-click PayPal payment system.

HTML5 = open portability

In a world where fragmented publishing platforms force self-publishers to comply with myriad rules and regulations to enable their work to appear in Amazon’s, Apple’s, and Google’s marketplaces, Publification's platform agnostic HTML5-based Browserbook format will theoretically eliminate the need to conform to specific platforms.

“We see our platform as a driver mainly to some of these other platforms, because our links are so much easier to share through our built-in social tools,” Ojassar explains. He continues, “There will be built in methods to send friends specific quotes, or pages, or even links to related books.”

“I try to test things like this on my parents, because they have a difficult time even with their cable box. Never in their lifetime would they adopt a technical solution that required them to download things, then upload, then open them, then sync them. That would never happen. But, they click on links all the time, so it's not anything that they have to learn anew. This is literally for everyone,” Ojassar says.

Publification is a spinoff of Indilo Wireless, an Estonian company. One of Indilo's founders, Janek Priimann, Publification's CTO, was developing a site similar to self-publishing, on-demand-printing site Blurb.com. But as Indilo hosted more and more iOS apps, ibooks and multimedia books begin gaining popularity on mobile platforms. This instigated Indilo’s creation of several publishing and reading apps. The complexities of this process led Indilo to rethink its strategy. Ultimately, Publification was formed as a response to these complexities.

10,000 authors strong

Publification hopes to have 10,000 authors on board within a year, and will start promoting itself with a few internationally renowned authors who are already signed up, like veteran graphic novelist Alan Moore (No Straight LinesWatchmen, V for Vendetta).

Ojassar says, “We're going to set up virtual book signings and virtual book clubs for Alan on Linkedin, so he doesn't have to fly around to bookstores to conduct signings. And we're connecting him directly to his fans through these social networks. It's better for him, because instead of only getting 15% [from sales], as he would from a traditional publisher, he's only giving us 15%.”

Publification hopes to simplify the process for authors too, with a back end that Ojassar says is easier than using WordPress. “It's like YouTube for books, almost,” he says.

Publification's beta will be open to all subscribers who have registered this Fall, and the company hopes to launch publicly in approximately three months, with an initial focus solely on the English language market. Publification's four co-founders recently completed a summer-long startup accelerator/mentorship program with Cambridge-based Springboard, who have contributed £15,000 in exchange for 6% of the company, on top of an initial £75,000 investment by the co-founders.

Beyond the founders, Publification made three new hires at the end of the summer, and is in the final stages of closing a financing round with UK-based Northstar Ventures.

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