The Architect of Innovative Publishing
Rough Cuts is also an example of how O’Reilly is working together with Pearson to advance Safari.
“Even though we’re competitors, we look at areas where we think we can grow the market better by cooperating rather than competing,” he says. “So Rough Cuts was our idea, and we could have done it only through OReilly.com, but we realized that if we offered it through Safari instead, and got Pearson and other Safari publishers on board, there would be more books available, and market acceptance would come more quickly through critical mass.”
In terms of book distribution, O’Reilly expects Safari to go from their third largest distribution channel to No. 1.
“Even for print books, online resellers are increasingly important,” he says. “Technical books are probably earlier in this trend than others, but it’s worth noting that last year, Amazon passed Barnes & Noble as our largest reseller.”
He also believes they are far more efficient with very few returns.
“I’m not saying that these results would be duplicated for all types of content, but I am saying that any publisher who doesn’t take online delivery seriously will likely be out of business eventually,” says O’Reilly.
Fear Obscurity, Not Piracy
Of course with cutting-edge computer-based technology there also comes great fear of piracy of publisher’s products. In 2002, O’Reilly wrote an essay called “Piracy is Progressive Taxation,” where he argued that obscurity, not piracy, is the biggest threat to publishers and authors.
“If you’re lucky enough to matter, you ‘might’ lose some sales to piracy,” O’Reilly says. “But more likely, the increased exposure from free redistribution will increase awareness and sales for most authors. In that sense, free online distribution is a bit like the progressive income tax we have in this country—in theory, taking a bit from the rich, and giving a bit to the poor.”