Will iAuthor eBook editions “reincarnate” illustrated book bestsellers of yesterday?

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

It is a rare illustrated book that becomes a bestseller.  For those few that do, the economic life of the book tends to be short-lived – a few years at best.

There are many reasons it is difficult to reissue an older once bestselling illustrated book successfully.  One of the main reasons is cost – and the difficulty of gaining substantial initial distribution.

Helga successfully presented paintings of Andrew Wyeth in 1991.  Richard Avedon: Photographs 1946 – 2004.  The Art of Florence (1999) two volumes.  Several editions of the Audubon “Baby Elephant” Folio around the 200th anniversary of Audubon’s birth. These are just a few of the examples of illustrated books which were successful when published, resold in the secondary market for substantial prices yet uneconomic to reissue.

Working either from the underlying transparencies or from InDesign files, the Apple iAuthor tools and the display capabilities of the iBookstore and the iPad may change these economics forever.

For a modest amount of money, the original book can be republished as a digital file.  Not only that, the digital file will likely have higher four color fidelity than the printed edition ever had.  The digital edition can add underlined terms throughout the text that pop up and add deeper context to the book and the reader experience.  And indices, linked to the images and the text, are more functional than a traditional index in a print book.

RosettaBooks just issued its first iAuthor eBook – The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady by Edith Holden.  In the 1970s this 1906 Diary was an international sensation selling millions of copies.  Its art images continue to support licensing programs including a long term paper products line at Marks & Spencer in London.

We worked from top quality transparencies and reset the text to match as closely as possible the original handwritten diary.  About 300 terms (names of plants, places, poets) were hot linked so that pop ups gave the reader contextual information.  The index is hot linked to the text and imagery.  We added an animation piece to introduce the book as well as an audio interview with Rowena Stott, whose great aunt wrote the Diary.

The result is a more compelling version than any prior print edition.  In some ways it is more practical and engaging than the original itself.

The digital list price is $9.99 –a fraction of coffeetable print book pricing.  The availability is instant in 23 countries.  The edition stays on sale as long as we like – so that it is likely to become commercially stronger over time rather than the print model of quickly commercially weaker over time.

And the content owners stand to make significantly higher royalties per digital sale than they would likely make with a small royalty on net proceeds from a print sale.

All in all, a strong case for the role of the iAuthor edition “reincarnating” print illustrated past bestsellers.

Expert Publishing Blog
Arthur Klebanoff

About Arthur Klebanoff

Arthur Klebanoff is the founder and CEO of RosettaBooks, a leading independent eBook publisher. RosettaBooks offers 500 eBooks worldwide including such classic titles as Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey as well as the major works of Kurt Vonnegut, Winston Churchill and Arthur C. Clarke.

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