Book Business EXTRA! Q&A -- Cofounder of iAmplify Speaks About Helping HarperCollins Provide Audio and Video Content Online That Go ‘Beyond the Book.’
HarperCollins new Digital Media Cafe (harpercollins.iamplify.com) opened for business earlier this week. The new online venture charges for subscription and on-demand audio and video downloads featuring interviews and behind-the-scenes snippets of the publishing houses’ top talents. The distribution platform tools for the venture were created by iAmplify, a two-year-old publisher of digital media, who began working with Harper earlier this year.
iAmplify Cofounder Jack Hidary spoke with Book Business EXTRA! about the new venture for offering premium downloads that allow publishers to go ‘beyond the book.’ Hidary said he believes this enterprise demonstrates a more sustainable business model for the book industry.
Book Business EXTRA! -- What did you offer HarperCollins in terms of making digital content delivery a reality?
Jack Hidary -- I think iAmplify has several components. I think that the partnership really succeeds because of both parties. Harper, I think, realizes, from their point of view, that everything is going digital and also ‘beyond book.’ Book publishing in terms of a business model is undergoing a fundamental change. Rather than saying hey, let’s just sell $20 to $30 from Jack Welch every three years when he comes out with a book, there is a more sustainable, annuitized regular model of revenue that we can have with an author and celebrity like Jack Welch ... It’s to go ‘beyond the book.’
EXTRA! -- How will this build additional revenue?
Hidary -- The book business model now is to come out with a $30 product, which is a lumpy and hard-to-predict, quick fall-off after the book is published type of business model. How about a better business model, a more annuity-based business model. Yes, we’ll still come out with physical books, but we translate the people who love Jack Welch into a cadre of subscribers and a’ la cart users of Jack Welch interviews, translate that into regular new insight from Jack Welch that can give users what Jack is thinking today ... We want to know what Jack thinks about that, not just what he wrote two years ago.
EXTRA! -- Is this something you see other publishers taking notice of?
Hidary -- Going beyond the book takes book publishing to a whole other level. Things are not just going digital in the sense of [things like] audio going from tape to download. That’s a small part of it. The big picture is the book publishing model--HarperCollins is realizing--is fundamentally changing. What they realized was that they were in the position to get ahead of the curve on this, to be the first publisher out of the box to initiate this new model. We now have the ability with the iAmplify platform to give Harper and authors the ability to, on a regular basis, publish fresh content, fresh material, audio and video, and interact with their audiences.
EXTRA! -- How will this serve the relationship between HarperCollins and its customers?
Hidary -- For the first time, HarperCollins, a major, major publisher in this country, now will have direct access to its audience members. Harper today only has three customers, Barnes and Nobel, Borders and Amazon. The ability to have more than three customers, to know who the actual readers are, is a wonderful opportunity for HarperCollins. They’re certainty not going to do that now by selling books directly. That would undermine their traditional channels. With this new model of ‘beyond the book,’ we will know who is signing up to hear Jack Welch. Harper can have a direct relationship with them. That’s a fundamental difference from the traditional book publishing model.
EXTRA! -- How would the feedback help publishers?
Hidary-- I think this gives us a medium for immediate feedback as to what readers want. In both in nonfiction and fiction, all the major categories in publishing. We put a mixture of content on the Digital Media Cafe. From that range, we get immediate feedback of what users want. Editors can then take that feedback. I think the feedback is critical.
EXTRA! -- Right now, the Digital Media Cafe offers author interviews and short-form content. What are the plans and timeline of getting full versions of HarperCollins books up online?
Hidary -- We believe that there is a place for audio books and movies and so forth, but our focus is on short-form content. Our focus is on the kind of stuff that can be downloaded quickly and that can be played for anywhere from 10 minutes to 30 minutes. We feel that genre is set to explode. That’s where the iPod generation wants to focus.