Online bookstore turns digital publisher
September 2, 1999
by Cameron Crouch
SAN FRANCISCO (IDG) -- Ever since the Internet was recognized as a publishing medium, authors and publishers have struggled to find ways to safely post their wares and protect their rights. On Tuesday, Internet bookseller Fatbrain.com is offering its solution, at the Seybold Seminars conference here.
Fatbrain is launching eMatter, intended as a secure, inexpensive service for publishing odd-sized manuscripts and articles. The company also hopes the technology will make Fatbrain.com the site where you can publish and search for information on a variety of subjects. It differs from existing online publishing services, which mostly focus on creative writing and do not emphasize security or a searchable catalog.
Fatbrain.com is aiming its specialized publishing at target audiences, especially businesses, says Judy Kirkpatrick,
Fatbrain.com's general manager of digital publishing. Frequently, documents fall in the 10- to 100-page range, between the lengths of a magazine article and a book. The documents are too long to print in large quantities with a laser printer, but too short to bind as a book. It is this midrange length that eMatter targets as "an econonically viable channel," Kirkpatrick says.
Security has been a major deterrent to online professional publishing. For secure and easy uploads, Fatbrain.com is licensing Adobe's new secure PDF technology, which is also being announced this week at Seybold Seminars. For output, the company is working with Microsoft to develop a secure way to deliver Word files.
"The fastest growing piece of our business is the print-on-demand service," Kirkpatrick says. For example, Fatbrain provides a printing service for IBM's documentation manuals.
Target length, target readers
Authors can publish directly on the Fatbrain site, Kirkpatrick explains. For pre-published material, eMatter can also serve as an online reprint channel.
Authors and publishers at eMatter set their own price for their digital sales. To publish at the site, authors name a value for each title and sign a document of ownership of rights. They upload manuscripts in Adobe PDF or PostScript, Microsoft Word, or text format. Although Fatbrain's interest is professional documents of 10 to 100 pages, the service has no page limits or subject requirements. Every self-publisher pays a one-dollar monthly fee to list a title, and receives 50 percent of royalties on titles sold.
Initially, the eMatter service will focus on getting authors to publish on the site. The full electronic-commerce purchase capabilities are scheduled to be up and running by mid-October.
Fatbrain.com plans to eventually offer print-on-demand services for materials on the site. To build up a catalog, Fatbrain will pay authors 100 percent of royalties until the end of this year on works published by October 15, and will waive the listing fee through April 1. One of the early works scheduled to go on the site is the story of the company's name change by Chris MacAskill, chief executive officer of Fatbrain.com.
Fatbrain.com has been honing its services for some time. From its origin as an online bookstore called Computer Literacy, it has branched out to provide training materials and corporate products. Fatbrain.com has developed more than 200 intranet bookstores for customers like Sun, Novell, Lucent, and Microsoft.
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