Posted on October 17th, 2010 1 comment
This has been one of the most amazing, rewarding and surreal weeks of my life.
Borders has chosen BookBrewer — the first product of my startup, FeedBrewer — to power the engine for its eBook self-publishing service. You can read about our partnership in the official press release, or in media coverage from a variety of sources including Fast Company, Publishers Weekly and PC Magazine.
We made the announcement at BlogWorld Expo, one of the largest confabs of bloggers and new media enthusiasts in the world. The response at our booth was enormous and even overwhelming at times, with people lined up to talk to me, my team and Borders’ eBook manager Kelly Peterson about how they can turn their content into sellable eBooks. Their response is not surprising, given the explosive growth in eBook sales in recent months.
Some highlights on the partnership:
- On October 25 the same technology and user experience will be surfaced on a separate site called Borders Get Published, Powered by BookBrewer. You can enter your e-mail address on the form on Borders.bookbrewer.com to be notified as soon as the service launches.
- Books published through both BookBrewer and Borders Get Published will be available for purchase on Borders.com and viewable in Borders-branded apps (such as Kobo), but will also appear in other eBook stores that BookBrewer has relationships with. Those include Amazon.com and KoboBooks.com, with more on the way.
- Borders will use its marketing muscle to encourage thousands of new authors to get published, and will promote promising new authors in its weekly emails and on its Web site. This is a huge boon for self-published authors because Borders reaches more than 30 million people per week in e-mails alone.
BookBrewer, which only launched last week, will operate as its own entity. We will serve customers through both sites, and will roll out more strategic “Powered By BookBrewer” services throughout the year that benefit our company and partners, in addition to other services for authors and content providers.
Some people are surprised that Borders would want “their” eBooks to show up in competitors’ stores, but it makes sense when you think about the self-publishing customer. They want their content to be everywhere that people want to buy it.
I can tell you from spending two days in a booth with Kelly Peterson and talking extensively with others at Borders that they’re one of the most customer-focused companies around. They understand that authors — a category that now potentially includes each and every one of you — don’t want their content to be defined or confined based on which service or programs they use to create it. The customer always comes first for them, and with self-publishing the book always belongs to the author.
Kelly put it best over dinner: “If you buy a piece of clothing at a store, you expect to be able to wear it everywhere, not just in the store where you bought it.” You can see that evidenced with the wide variety of eBook readers and apps Borders promotes, beyond the Kobo reader the company invested in last year.
I’m also excited to work with Borders because they, and bookstores in general, are part of the fabric of local communities — that rapidly disappearing third place that has been so important in the history of civil life. Other types of third spaces exist online, but at a local level physical meeting spaces are still important. Digital community engagement is the common thread in my most meaningful endeavors (Bakotopia, Printcasting and AOL Hometown as just a few examples), and as a previous recipient of a Knight News Challenge grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation I’m a proud public champion of helping the news and information needs of communities in the digital age. I see BookBrewer and Borders Get Published being strongly connected to those goals.
On that note, I want to once again thank the Knight Foundation for its role in the Printcasting project, which evolved into my company FeedBrewer, Inc., from which the Knight Foundation will one day benefit thanks to a voluntary 6% gift to the Knight Media Innovation Fund. While the Knight Foundation didn’t provide any funding for our proudly “bootstrapped” BookBrewer (and we did not ask for any), BookBrewer is an example of how non-profit seed funds can light a spark that continues to burn later. It’s my sincere hope that future successes from BookBrewer will go to help fund other startups that help local news and information.
The technology for BookBrewer is all new and distinct from Printcasting, but the thinking, methodology and customer insights evolved from it. In fact, thinking back, the biggest thing we learned from Printcasting was that even first-time print publishers really wanted to be multi-platform digital publishers, but didn’t know that until they got their feet wet. In the space of a few weeks after publishing a PDF magazine, they would start asking us if they could publish the same stories into Facebook or as a blog, and they would tell us that they saw print as only a small part of their future business. They also started asking about eBooks as the Kindle and, later, iPad grew in popularity.
The feedback we’re getting with eBooks validates that. People occasionally ask us if we can provide print-on-demand paperbacks for their books, but when we say we’re currently focused on digital books they’re fine with that. Most just want to make sure older readers who don’t have eReading devices, iPhones or iPads to have a print option (and we will be looking into that, by the way).
What I’ve learned through this process is that when you have an idea that you’re passionate about, people will step in at the last minute to help you out. I think the BookBrewer product engenders a desire to reciprocate after authors see how much it can do for them. We even had the leader of a writer’s group in Florida buy an ad in a conference program for BookBrewer with her own funds — a first in my 15 years of working on digital products.
I also want to thank Jon Nordmark, the co-founder of Wambo.com and founder and former CEO of Denver-based eBags. He facilitated Denver’s inaugural class for Adeo Ressi’s Founder Institute, an intensive technology and mentoring program. For four months, I would spend every Tuesday night from 5:30-9 p.m. with him, other startup CEO mentors, and founders of 17 other companies. We would sound ideas off each other, refine them, give and receive brutal feedback, and delve deeply into the business behind our businesses. While I had a lot of ideas before, I can safely say that without the Founder Institute program I never would have been able to create this product at this time and get it in front of Borders. Nordmark also helped with the Borders introduction.
Fellow Founder Institute graduate Todd Levy, co-founder of BloomWorlds, and his girlfriend Laurelie Lee Ezra also stepped in at the last minute to man our BlogWorld Expo booth and talked to hundreds of people about BookBrewer as if it was their product. I will never forget that, and can’t wait to talk more about BloomWorlds once it launches. Todd, when you need more people to evangelize for you at a conference, you know who to call.
And then of course there’s Don Hajicek and Andy Lasda, my amazing team of co-founders, who have worked tirelessly on this alongside me with no pay other than generous equity. You learn a lot about people when you’re down in the trenches with them, and these two are solid. In addition to their incredible development and product design skills, they’ve shown incredible faith and dedication. And a big thank-you to our advisors, especially Kit Seeborg from BumperTunes.
Last but not least, there’s my family. My wife Kendall Slee and two daughters have given up many nights and weekends with me, and also helped with ideas and feedback. (My 7-year-old Lauren even published an eBook that was for sale in Amazon, and she’s now perfecting a second edition.) My mom and dad even pitched in at the end to handle the logistics of ordering last-minute t-shirts for our BlogWorld booth.
But I guess you should expect that from a community-focused product. BookBrewer is and will continue to successful thanks to the community of people behind it. Hopefully that also includes you. Start brewing your eBooks so we can help you Get Published and featured by Borders! This video shows how easy it is.