Friday, January 12, 2007

Harpercollins Buys Piece of Libre DIgital

In 2005, Harpercollins like many other major trade houses was looking for a digital content and distribution option. They penned an RFP and the best response came from Newstand, Inc which for many years had been digitizing and distributing electronic copies of newspapers on a worldwide basis. Newstand established a new business unit named LibreDigital and Harpercollins became its first customer. From the press release last August is a description of what they can do:
The new LibreDigital Warehouse service enables leading publishers, such as HarperCollins Publishers, to quickly and easily bring top titles to the web, where consumers can search the entire content of a book and preview a percentage of its text and illustrations. This book publishing milestone is made possible using the ASP-based LibreDigital Warehouse solution, a one-stop-shop for publishers looking to simplify the complexities of Internet distribution and partner management, while providing secure, controlled online content to help sell books to millions of consumers.

Yesterday Harpercollins announced that they had purchased a stake in the LibreDigital divison of Newstand, Inc and that Brian Murray would serve on its board. From the release,
Publishers around the world have asked us to include their books in our digital warehouse and to make those titles available with our Browse Inside application," said Murray. "By applying the lessons we have learned with our first 10,000 digitized titles, HarperCollins and NewsStand have developed a turn-key digital solution to manage the digital publishing process from editorial to consumer. In the 21st century, we believe that all publishers must develop this capability, either in-house or through out-sourcing, to stay competitive and to reach the digital consumer.

This is an interesting entre into third party distribution for electronic content and I think a welcome one. As a publisher, there may be some initial doubts about working as a client publisher for such a large trade house but this will quickly be dispelled as irrational. While the content form is different there is not much difference between an 'hosting and distribution' deal for e-content and a third party distribution deal for physical content. This deal by Harpercollins could represent a long term win since I suspect once a publisher begins using the LibreDigital system it may be hard to switch to a competitive product later on. LibreDigital is likely to begin competing aggressively with Ingram Digital and some of the other minor players in the market.

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