Before I start, you should know: I have a 100 years forward vision for the publishing industry.
It’s not something I envisioned overnight. It’s the result of the work I’ve been doing for almost 10 years with the great people I luckily met along my path.
I’m not a visionary. I’ve always thought that the ability to innovate and to be creative are teachable. The more you study and work, the more you’ll be able to create innovative things. And I’m happy to agree with Andrew Ng on that.
The picture I have in mind is this: in 100 years the publishing landscape will be like a software infrastructure where the contents will flow from writers to readers, and the other way around, following the least arduous path. Like water.
What we, at StreetLib, are doing
Don’t worry, I’m not alone. I’m headed down this path with my team at StreetLib!
What I usually like to do is to rewind from that 100-years-vision in the future to now and always ask myself, every day: what can I do to move the publishing world, even modestly, in this direction?
Nowadays, the publishing world is full of constraints preventing contents to freely flow from writers to readers and vice versa: we have to deal with digital locks also known as DRM, with exclusivity and any other kind of restriction limiting content distribution, with the “walled garden” of big software corporations and with the publishers’ territorial rights. And the list could go on and on….
Those all are constraints that the *digital* publishing industry inherited from the *traditional* publishing industry. Big publishing corporations are happy to embrace them because they are happy to protect their status quo and keep the situation blocked instead of innovating, even if these constraints don’t really make sense anymore.
Unfortunately for them, this system is not going to last thanks to the Internet and digital technologies. They cannot stop innovation, even if they are slowing it down.
Meanwhile, unfortunately for all the book lovers out there, books are really in danger because they are trapped in this broken publishing industry. And consequently, they often are unable to compete with other forms of content in this hyper connected world.
Books can be saved only if someone pulls them out of all this and makes them friends with digital technologies.
Books can only be saved if we make them flow without constraint. This means embracing inclusivity instead of exclusivity. This means applying digital technology as part of all the book production and distribution chain (yes also for paper books!). This means being as independent as possible instead of focusing all our efforts on one single proprietary platform. This means not being focused on short terms results and widen our perspective.
This is exactly our mission at StreetLib.
We, at StreetLib, are a small group of people but we have great ideas. We are definitely going in the direction I described before, step by step, doing our best every single day to support innovation.
Our business model aims to destroy every entry barrier in the publishing market and to make books friends with the Internet and digital technology. We make it easy to write, produce, publish and sell more and better books through great technology and affordable services.
Our services are always based on a revenue share model and our mission is to make content flow through as many channels as possible.
We get money if and only if we do our job well: essentially, readers pay for books, and when it happens we get a small revenue share from their royalties.
Widening your reach
Our job was never easy, but after arriving in New York City, I soon realized it was going to get tougher and ever more challenging than before.
Here most of the authors, like you, actually dream to be published by one of the so called “Big-5” publishing houses. Here this probably happens more than anywhere else. I won’t further explore this matter here, because Tucker Max already did it quite well. I can only say that publishing with a big publishing house is a good idea only if you are able to fly 20 years back in time.
I’d add that among the authors and publishers approaching us, or who were approached by us, many don’t get the whole picture either.
I like to work on the front line, I’m personally dealing with our customers requests, questions and problems and I can say that I’m learning a lot from them. They are great and I feel very privileged to work with them here at the heart of the publishing world. Still, I think they should widen their perspective.
Most of them feel “satisfied” with publishing on big stores like Amazon Kindle, Barnes&Noble Nookstore and Apple IBooks. Even when I tell them what’s happening elsewhere, outside of those platforms’ reach, they don’t give so much attention to it. Today, they make money there and that’s what matters.
My point is: you cannot perceive the whole world only as big as the USA, and you have to play smart and widen your perspective if you want to survive.
Completely relying on the commercial decisions of just one corporation, or even a few of them, isn’t smart at all. This decision will probably soon affect either you or your beloved readers!
Ten years ago, I used to work alongside some great independent online bloggers and they were making money with Google AdSense. Some of them had a long-term strategy, others were just there to take advantage of the Google system. Guess who has survived and who hasn’t.
This is the side project of a friend of mine from Zimbabwe, as you can see it’s a virtual archive that brings reading freedom in his country. There, people can’t access online bookstores as people from the western world can.
You may not be aware that the Kindle platform reaches only a few countries outside the US and across the world.
If you signup on Amazon from Africa, the Middle East and most of Asia, you won’t be able to download books. You can try to input a US/UK address and to change your country-settings on the Amazon website, but you’ll be able *to buy content only* if you provide a US/UK bank card.
In other countries, where downloads are permitted, like Argentina or Chile, Amazon will surcharge the so called delivery-cost on the list price. This is about $2.00 and won’t go to the authors or publishers, and is applied even for free books!
I’m not talking about authors or publishers territorial rights. I’m talking about limitations imposed “by default” by the Amazon Kindle ecosystem.
There may be some reasons to publish exclusively with the big stores, but they are definitely not good enough if you want to play the long term game. Fortunately, you have plenty of alternatives.
These are the mono-channel publishing platforms that lets you publish directly (and in some cases, exclusively) to the big stores: Amazon KDP, Kobo Writing Life, Apple IBooks and Nook Press. All of them have different features but all of them provide a single proprietary retail channel.
In these cases, the retail channel is always owned and managed by the same company that provides the publishing platform, and this isn’t a good thing as I explained before. Please note this is true even in the case of Kobo: they partner with many local bookstores and libraries in different countries of the world, that is good, but the retail platform is always managed and controlled by them.
The alternatives are the companies that provides multi-channel publishing platforms like Draft2Digital, Smashwords, PublishDrive and, of course, StreetLib. These have no upfront cost and work with revenue shares with authors and publishers.
Please note that I won’t even mention the ones asking for money upfront because their business model falls completely outside of the vision I discussed before.
I really think that all the no-upfront-cost multi-channel publishing platforms are providing a great service to the humanity.
They are democratizing the publishing world thanks to the Internet technologies and they play in line with the vision I described above.
Thanks to them, more and more people can, like never before, produce and sell the books resulting of their dreams and creativity.
And thanks to them, more and more people can read a vast and diverse selection of content, from all around the world, without the limitations we had in the past, and without relying on a single corporation’s content policy.
This represents a big step ahead.
Also, I’m confident enough to say that StreetLib shines among other similar companies. In fact, it’s the only one who is working in accordance with my 100-years-forward vision.
StreetLib defines itself as the swiss-knife of publishing tools and actually offers a plethora of services to empower independent authors and publishers.
StreetLib doesn’t only enable everyone to publish books on a variety of big and small stores all around the world, like all the other mentioned not-upfront-cost multi-channel publishing platforms. Instead, it relentlessly develops new technologies and tools to improve the publishing world bit by bit.