Passion Rather Than Business Sense Fueling Book Publishing Start-up Funding?

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Trade publishing in the U.S. is roughly a $14 billion business — and one that few observers think is going to grow in the next several years. Yet, there has been an incredible amount of start-up and venture-capital activity in the industry in the past few months.

One week in Nov. was particularly fertile with start-up funding announcements: SkyInk Studios, Orson & Co., Bookboard and Oyster. The first two are e-publishing start-ups and the latter are ebook subscription companies.

While venture-capital firms may see that there is “disruption” in the industry that will cause some billions of dollars of economic activity to shift from established players to new ones, the small amounts of money involved in publishing may not whet their appetite to make multi-million dollar investments.

At a panel on start-ups in publishing at the Tools of Change conference in New York, Bookigee’s Kristen McLean, the panel’s moderator, touched on this issue, questioning why venture-capital firms would invest in book publishing start-ups.

Bowker’s senior vice president of business development ANgela D’Agostino answered by saying that people enter the book publishing industry because they are passionate about books, suggesting that passion rather than business sense may fuel some venture-capital investments in book publishing start-ups. Bookigee’s McLean and the other panelists — Mitchell Davis, founder of Bibliolabs, a Charleston, S.C.-based curation platform for librarians and others, and Jason Illian, founder of BookShout, a Dallas-based consumer ebook library platform that helps readers transport their Kindle and Nook ebooks into one, combined personal library — seemed to agree.

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