Digital-Only Publishing Start-Up Secures $800,000 in Funding

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Digital-only publishing start-up Open Air Publishing has closed an $800,000 round of funding with contributions from investors SV Angel, Charles River Ventures and 500 Startups.

The New York-based start-up was launched in May 2011 and has published four digital book apps for Apple iOS, “Master Your DSLR Camera,” “Speakeasy Cocktails,” “The Better Bacon Book,” and “Holiday Recipes &Party Planning Guide by FOOD52.” The company said in a statement that each app had been in the No. one or two rank in sales in the Apple App Store in each of their categories in the U.S. and overseas and that all have been at some point in the top 100 App Store rankings. They are priced from $4.99 to $9.99. Open Air declined to share specific revenue or sales numbers.

In addition to the funding, the company announced that each of its apps is now available for the iPhone in addition to the iPad.

Open Air will use the investment money to double its team to six people and produce more e-books — nine new original titles by the end of 2012 on topics like wine, investing, weddings and cooking — according to the company’s founder and CEO, Jon Feldman.

Feldman is bullish on his company’s digital-only business model in comparison with that of other, more-established publishing companies.

“They are slow, and we are fast,” he wrote in an email to Digital Book World. “They have bloat and drag; we are lean and scrappy.”

He went on to list the following reasons why his company was at an advantage:

– Their digital offerings are print books, usually without interactivity/video, and when they do, it’s added as an afterthought. Meanwhile, we design interactivity/video as the book is being made, with complete author involvement. This makes our books intuitive, punchy, and basically, awesome.

– While they force books made for paper onto limited formats like KF8, ePub, and iBooks, we use the best technology available. Right now, that’s as iPad and iPhone apps.

– Much of what they do is to protect their pre-existing product (hard/softcover books), while we have the freedom to do pricing and marketing as we please. This means jam-packed video books with hours of footage for just $9.99.

“In the end, our business is simple: Make impressive books in a fraction of the time and cost as our legacy print publishers, always creating for the best technology available,” he wrote.

Whether his company’s model subsumes that of other publishers, live peaceably alongside them or fails completely remains to be seen. Open Air will be announcing its next title in several weeks.

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3 thoughts on “Digital-Only Publishing Start-Up Secures $800,000 in Funding

  1. Wow. If only it was actually viable to just sell books through iTunes. This guy doesn’t know the book market or readers at all. Even Apple don’t want books in the app store, that’s why they are devloping iBooks. Look at Fifty Shades of Grey – I’m not sure that iTunes was the number one outlet for that title and I’d bet my life savings that his sales on iTunes so far are small in comparison to the sums most major publishers would consider a success. I’m all for digital-only publishing, but this view is incredibly short-sighted. You can’t ignore the other millions of readers (99% of the market) who won’t look for books on the app store. If he’s so lean and fast, why does he need $800,000 up front?

  2. Holy Moly! As far as I can tell, my company is one of the largest small publishers of children’s ebooks – we’ve been in business for a year as of last week and have published 102 books with a dozen authors and illustrators, mainly on Amazon. Yes, the formatting is less than stellar, but it’s been our mission to create great books for kids within the ecosystems their parents are already using. That way, when mom (ahem..) is reading WOOL on the sofa and the toddler asks for a story, it’s an easy switch and everybody wins. We’ve been cash-flow positive since the 3rd month but never seen iTunes as a significant share of the market (nor have we accepted any outside capital). I’m always suspect of apps masquerading as books and it seems like these hybrids are taking the spotlight (but not necessarily all the sales :)
    This is going to be another interesting year in publishing!

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