If ‘pay as you read’ seems like a counter-intuitive approach to book consumption, ask yourselves the following questions. How many books do you currently own that are taking up real estate on your bookshelves? How many eBooks have you downloaded to your iPads, Kindles or smartphones? Now, out of all those tens of thousands of physical pages and virtual memory, how much of that content have you actually read?
Consumption Paradigm Shift
If the percentages are low, you might be interested in a new service that has re-imagined how readers and writers should look at discovery and conversion going forward. From my own personal history, if I was to never purchase another hardbound book, I would still have enough reading material on my bookshelves to last me for the rest of days. However, the same doesn’t hold true for the eBooks residing on my iPad - as I’ve only read 50 percent of what I have downloaded over the last five years.
Launched and entering the library market in 2013, Total Boox is another innovative company, active in the eBook publishing space [with a slightly different approach than SELF-e, the service we reported on in March]. From the onset, their start-up team saw a need for a digital shift in how books were to be consumed in the 21st Century. The software they developed was put in place to eliminate the previous barriers that existed between books and readers. It’s intent was to introduce a new business model that improves reader-book match-ups and market efficiency.
Total Boox founder Yoav Lorch believes the way we bought books in the past is out-dated. “When it comes to eBooks, people talk about the technology a lot but they don’t spend much time looking at business models. And so the old business model of pay first read later (was) smart and sneaky enough to creep into the world of eBooks. But it doesn’t belong there. It’s a business model which may seem to be part of the essence of books — but it isn’t,” notes Lorch.
When interviewing Total Boox’s director of content Mirela Roncevic today, she noted that, “because Total Boox is a ‘pay-as-you-read’ model, we do not make money unless the books we offer are actually read by users.”
“Libraries benefit from this approach because they are able to provide our entire catalog to their patrons without spending any money upfront, leaving it up to the patron to decide what to consume and in what quantity,” adds Roncevic.
The Self-Publishing Review Process . . .
The premise is logical. Total Boox is focused on high quality content because it has a greater chance of being read. To that end, it was important for them to vet indie authors and their work through a screening process.
“We needed a system in place that would help us create opportunities for self-published authors whose work stood out,” said Roncevic. “I envisioned an operation through which we would be able to ‘filter’ the self-published literature that had previously been reviewed by professionals.”
In so doing, Total Boox reached out to BlueInk Reviews, a firm dedicated to helping the industry surface the best self-published titles. Cofounders Patti Thorn and Patricia Moosbrugger launched their firm in 2011 to review, highlight and curate the best of the best — a perfect fit for Total Boox to now add self-publishing authors to their library rosters.
Differing from some of the other more established review services like Kirkus, BlueInk Reviews does not treat “authors like stepchildren,” said Thorn in a Publishing Trends critique.
“To us, self-published books are the main event. This is an amazing pool of content, growing every day, but there is so much out there that it’s difficult for authors to distinguish themselves. Our reviews will help authors establish credibility with readers. And when we find exceptional books, we plan to celebrate them,” adds Thorn.
BlueInk’s two-tier fee structure charges a $395 fee for a review with a turn-around time of 7-9 weeks [note: For $495, indie authors can receive their reviews in 4-5 weeks.]
Once they receive a book from the author, they pair it with the proper reviewer for that book, according to genre. BlueInk has a stable of over 100 reviewers of different specialties. All are professional writers or editors — many have published in places such as The New York Times and Washington Post or served in high-level positions at major publishing houses, such as Random House.
During that two-week period, the author has the opportunity to opt out of having their book review posted. If they do not opt out, the review is published on their website and also goes out to the various outlets, such as Ingram and other services that work with indie authors.
Cream Rises to the Top . . .
In interviewing Moosbrugger today she noted that only those eBooks, which receive the highest ranked reviews, are recommended for inclusion in the Total Boox program.
“We want to include only exceptional books in the Total Boox catalog. This is a real opportunity for librarians and readers to discover that there are fantastic eBooks out there that are being self-published. We really want to promote great self-published titles and raise awareness of the quality of books that are coming out of the self-publishing world,” adds Moosbrugger.
Payment & Earnings Model
The system devised by Total Boox is a win-win-win for all parties - the reader, the library and the self-publishing author.
For starters, the price of the eBook is always the retail price — authors don’t need to discount. So, if the book costs $10 and the reader reads only 25%, he or she pays only $2.50. And if the reader should decide at a later date to complete the book, the balance of $7.50 is debited to their credit card or PayPal account at that time.
According to Roncevic, “individual users load their account and use their balance for reading (think of how users use Skype for calling — it works the same way.)”
“Libraries set a budget in advance, based on what they can afford or think their communities will need. We then deduct from this balance each quarter based on what patrons have read. Libraries can fill up their accounts at any point. They sign a contract with us, and these vary from library to library,” says Roncevic.
As far as indie authors, Total Boox shares all revenues with publishers quarterly. “ In the case of self-published authors, authors are essentially ‘publishers,’ so we share all royalties with them. Whatever we earn is split 50/50 and shared with publishers,” notes Roncevic.
A library to recommend?
According to Roncevic, they sign new libraries each month. Presently they’ve established working relationships with hundreds of U.S. libraries, representing several million readers in New York City, Connecticut, Texas, Kansas, Tennessee, Maryland, Colorado and Kentucky.
If as a self-publishing author — whose work has been vetted by BlueInk — you would like to recommend a library for this service in your local community, Roncevic suggests you forward them information about the program, so they can contact Total Boox for consideration.
With more than 450,000 eBooks self-published each year, the alliance struck by Total Boox and BlueInk Reviews is another innovative opportunity for indie authors to expand their reach to a wider audience. For those willing to test the waters, we would love to hear your feedback as to how this program has benefitted you and your work?
Readers & Writers: I look forward to your feedback, comments and critiques, and please use BookWorks.com as your resource to learn more about preparing, publishing and promoting self-published books. My blogs appear bi-weekly on the 1st and 3rd Fridays of each month.