Today STEALTHBooks, the ebook distribution platform of Simplicissimus, is starting Operation Everything Must Go. Here I’d like to explain what it’s about and, more importantly, why we’re doing it.
What is it about? Easy: from today until December 31st publishers (and only the publishers) can convert the books they still haven’t digitized at the lump-sum price of 15 euros per book (peanuts, for anyone who knows what I’m talking about), regardless of the number of pages (and with the only restriction being that they’re “black-and-white books”, fiction or non fiction). In exchange we ask the publishers (if they haven’t already done so) to entrust the distribution of their ebooks to STEALTHBooks .
Why are we doing it? This is a reasonable question, since we’ll obviously be losing money.
From a logical point of view the matter can be explained as follows: our main business is distributing ebooks, so the more we have to distribute, the more we sell and the more we earn, both ourselves and the publishers. And since one of the deterrents to the release of ebooks is the cost of conversion, we’ve decided to invest some money, not in advertising as so many do, but rather in paying for the bulk of conversions we perform for publishers, instead of making them pay the entire amount.
But behind this logic there lies a more profound vision, one that may be particularly interesting to all those digital publishing service providers which are preparing to offer conversion services, even in Italy, and may view this offer as competition against them, when it actually isn’t. This is how things are:
- Is conversion going to become free for everyone? Yes! This is inevitable over the long term. This is why there are epub editor projects all over the world that allow anyone to make an epub file by themselves at zero cost. And to do it well, too. This is why we invested and are still investing in BackTypo.
- So are these tools already capable of guaranteeing everyone an adequate service? No, not everyone: they’re still too complicated for many people, so many still need “the conversion” to be done for them.
- Feeding the business of conversions made in India at ridiculously low prices to then resell them making everyone believe they’re done in Italy (as many Italians do) seems to take the fair out of fair business practices. And don’t say “Well, you do it too“: not us, we have always openly declared (since 2009!) our partnership with Integra in India, and we have always added our own internal work (and lots of it) to provide proper conversions. In fact, in order to just break even, we can’t go below 0.50€ a page.
- So how can we afford to make this offer? Let alone the idea that after December 31st it will no longer be an offer, but will become standard practice .
- Clearly we’ll lose a ton of money, but we want to unlock the market. Publishers release around 3% of what they have in their catalogue, and we want to unlock this situation. There are those who do marketing by spending money on publicity, but not us: instead we invest our money in publicity, we’re using our money to subsidize the conversions of the publishers.
- And here’s the interesting part for all those Italians who really do work directly on conversions: once the offer phase is finished, if we have a significant number of books confirming the quality of this operation, we’ll create a large network of Italian converters, coordinated by us, who, using BackTypo, will convert and produce the best ebooks ever seen on the face of the earth.
- And we’ll do the same on all the other markets in which we operate or will operate: a network of Polish converters in Poland, Turkish converters in Turkey, Spanish converters in Spain and Latin America, Portuguese converters in Brazil, etc. Because in books, language is just too important to be overlooked.
So the conversions are and remain a paid service, it’s just that we’ll pay for them, aiming for a distinctly higher quality than what we see today.