The Architect of Innovative Publishing
Safari is actually no longer a division of O’Reilly. “Early on in its history, we spun it out into a joint venture with Pearson Technology Group, our biggest competitor,” he says.
Microsoft Press also contributes titles to Safari, as well as a number of smaller publishers.
“We realized that for online books to take off, we needed an industry-wide approach,” O’Reilly says.
When O’Reilly started Safari, there were several other online book services, but according to Tim O’Reilly, the economics of their services didn’t cut it, and they were positioned like book clubs.
“But I tend to take the long view, and I believed that one day, online books would be a large part of our future, so we needed an economic model that would survive once the online channel became primary,” he says.
And that is exactly what it has done.
“For O’Reilly, Safari is now our third largest reseller, behind only Amazon and Barnes & Noble,” O’Reilly says.
Safari also provides the platform for O’Reilly Media to exhibit its innovation in a relatively new hands-on service for its customers. In the service, Rough Cuts, customers can buy access to a series of PDF downloads of snapshots (or “builds” to use software parlance) of a book that is currently in development. And because the book is still in development, this allows readers to make comments and suggestions directly to the author during the development process.
The company is noticing some interesting statistics in this area of downloadable books. Sixty percent chose PDF only, 36 percent chose the PDF + print bundle and only 4 percent chose print only.
“Over the years, we’ve done a number of projects to allow our customers to participate in the development of our books, O’Reilly says. “But we also wanted a mechanism to give people early access to books under development.”