Welcome to the Small Press Network, the peak Australian organisation for small and independent publishers.

Readings and SPUNC Launch New Ebookstore [24.01.2011]


In a collaboration between three unique Melbourne organisations, award-winning independent bookshop Readings has launched an eBookshop exclusively stocked with ebooks published by small and independent Australian publishers.

In early 2010 SPUNC (the Small Press Network), who saw an opportunity to allow Australia’s independent publishers to sell ebooks in the independent bookselling sector, received some funding support from the Australia Council to make this happen.

Meanwhile, local web software development company, Inventive Labs, who have been consultants to many of Melbourne’s independent publishers, had been working on an ebook platform, Booki.sh, built around their open-source web-based ereader Monocle.

Readings, equally eager to enter the digital publishing retail environment, jumped at the opportunity of bringing Australian and International authors, from Australian publishers to their customers. Together a wonderful partnership between Readings, SPUNC and Inventive Labs was formed.

‘We’re really thrilled to be the first independent bookshop in Australia to offer locally published ebooks to our customers. This is a fantastic way that our customers can support local independent publishing and bookselling in the digital age’, said Readings Managing Director, Mark Rubbo. ‘We see this as the best ebooks solution as customers can simply browse and purchase ebooks, which can then be read on any device with a modern web browser instead of being tied to a particular device such as the Kobo or Kindle.’

SPUNC, is buoyed by the level of interest from small publishers, and even more so by what this means for the future of small press publishing.

‘It’s not easy for small publishers to keep up with new technologies and trends in sales and marketing,’ says SPUNC General Manager, Zoe Dattner. ‘The ebook platform that Inventive Labs has designed, Booki.sh, is fantastic, and because of existing relationships between independent publishers and Readings’ customers, this really is a very galvanising development for the small press sector for where we are in publishing at the moment. It has opened up the traditional bookselling frameworks.’

Books offered will include award winning authors such as Steven Amsterdam, Peter Temple, Cate Kennedy and Kate Grenville and ranges from independent publishers such as Giramondo, Sleepers Publishing, Affirm Press, Black Inc, Scribe and Text.

In the coming months, Readings will be signing up larger publishing companies, ensuring it remains a comprehensive seller of books, just like its bricks and mortar shops.

Here’s a sample of the ebook version of the latest Quarterly Essay by George Megalogenis. (Samples of all the Readings ebooks are embeddable so feel free to pass them around the internet.)

More information here:
Readings ebookstore

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GoldFroggy — 25 January at 07:40PM

So it’s a cloud-based service? What happens if booki.sh goes out of business – can we still read our books then?

Keith Stevenson — 27 January at 01:48PM

I’m not at all sure this is a good way for indie publishers to go. As Cory Doctorow says, ‘if you can’t open it with a screwdriver and mess about with the insides, you don’t really own it’. This seems to be one step further because, with cloud publishing, you don’t even have the physical file on your computer. And the first comment is spot on. What happens if the site goes out of business? All I’m left with is a receipt and a sour taste.

I think it’s also a bit disingenuous to say this is an ebook site. People have a very clear idea of what an ebook is i.e. and epub or mobi file that you can download. It should really be called a web-book ‘cos it only exists on the web. Booki.sh state one of the drivers for the site is that 'publishers want DRM on their product’. Personally I think DRM is counter-consumer and just serves to annoy buyers as well as not being an effective tool against copying anyway. As a SPUNC member and publisher, does the model allow me put a non-DRM product up there? I suspect, as Cory Doctorow found when he tried something similar with Apple and Sony, that the answer would be ‘no’.

Benjamin Solah — 27 January at 02:29PM

People are probably tired of hearing me by now, but I agree with the above comments. I’ve seen similar criticisms everywhere without much of a response. I’m really disappointed in this whole format as it kind of tells me you all miss the point of eBooks and just make it harder.

I would like to hear a response from SPUNC on this and some of the key publishers – and why you chose DRM and this model. Instead, all I feel like is that I should be shutting up about it all or the whole industry is going to hate me.

Zoe Dattner — 27 January at 03:04PM

Hi folks, obviously I’m well aware of the responses to this ebook store launch so far, and there’s something that I want to make clear about the role of SPUNC in the small press sector. One of the major reasons for SPUNC being established was to address the big issue of distribution and the barriers to entry that small publishers experience when trying to get their books sold (or even stocked) in bookstores. Digital publishing presents us with a massive opportunity that has heretofore been unavailable. Namely this: that a publisher can have a book distributed wherever they want, at the click of a button. And more importantly, a reader can find that book with a simple search online, find the stockist, click ‘buy now’ and have immediate access to that book. All of a sudden small publishers aren’t beholden to the processes of how a bookstore stocks and promotes a book.

This Booki.sh store at Readings is the first phase in a multi-tiered strategy to make books published by small publishers as widely available as possible. We had very specific reasons for going down this path at this point in time. And by the end of 2011, SPUNC will have secured many other distribution channels for its members, so that readers can choose to buy and read their ebooks in a way that best suits them. SPUNC, or the publishing industry at large, is not in the business of trying to tell you how to buy your books or read them. This is entirely up to you. Nor are we in the business of offering a service that is complex for publishers and difficult to manage. We have one prime objective, and it is something that we will pursue for as long as this organisation continues to exist: Every title published by a small publisher will be given every opportunity to be read by as many people as possible. Up until recently, this meant getting a printed book into the hands of a bookseller, or else running a pretty sophisticated mail order campaign. Now we are presented with a new bag of tools, and we are all in the process of learning how to use those tools, how to improve those tools, and how to engage with each other so that for every reader browsing a bookstore today, there are 4 more online about to discover the joy of books. We merely invite you to receive this analogue to digital migration in the spirit in which it is offered, that being one of experimentation, play, and a keen enthusiasm for seeing what comes next.

No one who is working in digital publishing today – and I mean absolutely no one – is doing so with the view to discovering the panacea. Nor are they attempting to ‘solve a problem’, that would imply that there was a problem to solve. Nor are any of us afraid of eating our own hats if that’s what we need to do. What we have here is what we’ve always had: an opportunity to create. And as readers, what you have is equally something you’ve always had: an opportunity to experience.

Benjamin Solah — 27 January at 03:11PM

I thank you for your response Zoe. So does that mean that there are still other formats to be released in the future?

Zoe Dattner — 27 January at 03:40PM

Benjamin: You bet. The human race is not in the habit of settling for whatever it just came up with.

GoldFroggy — 27 January at 04:14PM

I imagine from the lack of response to my comment that it is the case that if booki.sh goes out of business titles purchased are lost forever.

I’m glad you’re considering other ways of distributing e-books as book rental is in no way a long term solution.

Keith Stevenson — 27 January at 04:21PM

Hi Zoe Thanks for that. It’s reassuring to know SPUNC isn’t locked in to booki.sh as a sole means for digital publishing. I was fairly unimpressed with the comment over on Benjamin Solah’s site from booki.sh that was basically along the lines of – your existing Kindles and Kobos are old technology that we won’t support so suck it up.

Illustrated4Moorcock — 21 February at 12:17PM

What about iComics and digital Graphic Novels?

DC comics (a Time/Warner/AOL company) handed Superman over to Karactaz pty in Sydney, from which a successful motion comic resulted. There is no question of whether or not including comics and GN’s for publication is a good idea, and as saleable as any other indie publication on booki.sh. The featured interviews with Nikki Greenberg and Shaun Tan on ABC Radio National pretty much proved this. To not include iComics and GN’s would be much the same mistake as Borders not including eBooks until it was too late, as seen just this week.

Neil Gaiman’s career began with an indie Graphic Novel, “Violent Cases”. The message there is rather simple: wanna be Neil Gaiman? Then to begin, get a properly, professionally illustrated graphic novel out there. Doesn’t even need to be on paper anymore. The booki.sh samples include a few decent photos, so it’s current method already accommodates “art and text”. That’s all “Violent Cases” is: art and text. Digital newspapers: photos, art and text. The Graphic Novel section of Pages (even at regional Pages outlets) is healthy, when other sections are faltering. And Readings has previously featured Nikki Greenberg for signings of her GN work, right? Readings already supports Australian Graphic Fiction by proxy.

Assuming that wisdom will rule the day, and that booki.sh will include a digi-comic category, what would be the process by which to create a booki.sh GN or iComic series? A tutorial youtube clip would be great promotion and is standard for the promotion of new softwares.

What would the payment system be, and how often would payments be sent out?

Would there be options for different sizes? As in, a project designed for iPod Touch specifically versus iPad? Or the upcoming HP version? Will booki.sh “cloudbooks” work on this HP product, recently advertised on the side of most facebook pages?

Will audio-tracks for projects be possible?

What will be the pricing system and % of profit to the content-provider? As compared to the LuLu system? Which currently promises to immediately transport indies to the magical land of apple iBook sales?

What will the promotion plan for booki.sh titles be like? With standard and traditional paper publication, in-person signings are possible and can be a big sales incentive for consumer. Apple has not invented an app to sign an iPod (yet). Therefore Australian authors will need something to counterbalance that loss of traditional promotion. Will authors for this platform have an equal chance to get an interview with Ramona on the radio?

amelia — 22 February at 07:24AM

I think it is fantastic, I live in rural town and would otherwise have no access to these publications but I’d love to be able to have an online store for hardcopy small press, that way I could buy and sit under a tree with my poem, with my article, my brain desert.

amelia — 22 February at 07:56AM

And i should have read the rest of the website first to realise you do that….

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