Author Archives: Andrew Rhomberg

Andrew Rhomberg

About Andrew Rhomberg

Andrew is the founder of Jellybooks, a start-up focused on discoverability and reader analytics. He previously worked at txtr (whitelabel ebook retail platform), Skype (internet telephony), Reciva (internet radio), gate5 (now Nokia Maps), and Shell (oil). He holds a science Ph.D. from MIT. Follow him on Twitter at @arhomberg.

ebook discovery discovery Jellybooks Andrew Rhomberg DBW15

Publish and They Will Come…Right?

We live in an age of abundance, which means discoverability matters more than ever. By some accounts, as many as 1 million new books are being published every year in the English language alone. In addition, readers can choose from a back-catalog over 30 million titles through Amazon, used bookstores, libraries and friends. Readers are spoiled for...

Does the Acquisition of BookLamp Signal Apple’s Entry Into the Ebook Subscription Service Market?

In March of this year, shortly before Apple bought ebook recommendation start-up BookLamp, music subscription champion Spotify made a very similar acquisition. Spotify bought music recommendation service Echonest of Cambridge, MA. for approximately $100 million and with it secured the industry’s leading music recommendation and data mining service. Why? Many think that recommendation services...

Sourcing Books on Wall Street

A company can grow organically (investing in new product, developing new channels to market, improving customer service, in other words innovating) or it can grow by mergers and acquisition (M&A). The oil industry has a name for this — “drilling for oil on Wall Street” — as opposed to investing money into wild catting,...

Discovery, User Experience and the Long Tail

There has recently been some debate as to whether the long tail for ebooks exists: — “Dispelling the Ebook Long Tail Myth” by Marceloa Vena, head of the digital trade book business at Italian publisher RCS Libri — “New Data on the Long Tail Impact” By Mike Shatzkin, industry consultant and Digital Book World...

Crossing the Digital Chasm

This Thursday, UK trade publication “The Bookseller” held its annual Futurebook conference, which was well attended not by book sellers, but by publishers. Of course there were also a motley collection of authors, start-ups and consultants with agents being almost completely absent. Related: What Did UK Publishers Learn This Week? Continue the learning and...

Start-ups, Amazon and Going Outside the Publisher Ecosystem

In a very interesting interview with Jeremy Greenfield, Mike Shatzkin posits that big publishers don’t “need” start-ups. Start-ups in this context means “[high growth] technology start-ups”, as it so often does, because Silicon Valley has crowded out the notion that there other kinds of start-ups (which are sometimes politely referred to as “SMEs” =...

Why Are Ebook Start-ups Dominated by Men?

Related, a thoughtful response to the post below: There’s No Ceiling if You Start at the Top! Women in Digital Publishing and Tech Tim Carmody, who writes for The Verge, noted that high-profile NYC publishing start-up Oyster was built by 8 men and not a single woman. Yes, that’s pretty typical, even though two-thirds...

Netflix for Ebooks or Spotify for Ebooks? Spot the Difference!

Launching an all-you-can-eat access model for ebooks is tough as nails. After all the economics for ebook subscription services are pretty sobering. New York City start-up Oyster launched its take on the “all-you-can-eat” ebook business model this week. It’s team of eight engineers has put together a slick iPhone app with $3 million in...

Is Amazon Asocial?

I recently wrote a post called “Is Amazon Invincible.” It was a bit tongue-in-cheek, because in the long-term no company is invincible. The post was actually an exercise in analyzing Amazon’s formidable strengths, but also in exploring some of the company’s weaknesses. The analysis was strictly focused on book retailing, not the many other...

Is Amazon Invincible?

Apple suffered a stunning defeat in court over ebooks and previously we witnessed a bloodbath at Barnes & Noble for having gotten its ebook strategy wrong. This makes many wonder whether Amazon is invincible. Amazon has been the 800 pound gorilla of book retail for some time, but to some the behemoth form Seattle...

Does Barnes & Noble Have a Future?

Barnes & Noble has had a terrible time recently. It even “lost” its CEO. There have been a lot of interesting suggestions about what Barnes & Noble should do to survive the storms that are battering it — and no storm is stronger than the one blowing down from the Pacific Northwest (read: Amazon)....

The Future of Goodreads under Amazon Ownership

We don’t know how much Amazon has offered to acquire Goodreads but it probably was not a huge sum. In Silicon Valley, an exit valley between $10 million and $50 million is barely worth mentioning (Facebook bought no-revenue Instagram for $1 billion and most start-up acquisitions are now measured against that yard stick). Goodreads...

Five Shades of Book Discovery

There have been two great and thought-provoking and much commented articles recently on the subject of new book discovery: 1. Discovery is Publishers’ Problem; Reader are Doing Just Fine by Guy Lecharles Gonzales 2. Is the Book Discovery Bubble Ready to Pop by Ed Nawotka Guy has a great point in that book discovery...

The Sobering Economics of Ebook Subscription Services

I am always a bit skeptical about consumer surveys, because they paint too rosy a picture. Consumers are more likely to state that they might buy something at a certain price when asked versus when they have to part with cold, hard cash. Thus given that such surveys are overly optimistic, a recent UK...

Thoughts on Random Penguin From the UK

Some thoughts from the UK on the Penguin-Random House merger: – Random House Penguin can also be abbreviated to “Ruin” (credit to Ben Evans, a media and telecomm analyst from Enders Analysis for that one) – MacMillan + Hachette = Mache[t]te (credit to Waterstones UK for that one) – Harper Collins + Simon &...

Is there a Pearl Inside the Recently Launched Oyster? Challenges and Strategies for E-Book Subscription Services

Oyster, a start-up from New York announced earlier this week that it had raised $3 million from blue-chip venture-capital investors to create a “Spotify for ebooks”. The book industry took notice and some commentary was quite negative, as in “how naïve are these guys to disregard the complex rights and commercial framework of the...

Why Publishers Don’t Like Working With Start-ups

It’s not true that all publishers don’t like working with start-ups, but as the founder of one such start-up in the publishing world, Jellybooks, I can tell you firsthand that what might seem like a home-run partnership doesn’t always come to fruition. Now, you might say that I’m just being a big ol’ complainer...

E-Reading in the London Underground and Other Places I Can Spy

Like most Londoners I spend a lot of time on the London Underground or “tube” as it’s affectionately known (“metro” or “subway” to most Americans). In fact most Londoners spend 30-60 minutes each way commuting to work by tube. Digital publishing being my profession, I spend a lot of time looking at what devices...

Lessons from the ‘Penelope Trunk Affair’

This week, author Penelope Trunk went on a rant about how she left her publisher with her advance after determining that the publisher didn’t know how to market books online. Despite the dubious nature of some of her claims, there are lessons to be learned from her. A small handful of publishers have powerful...

Why Amazon Dominates

I was reading a great article by Joel Gascoigne on the “Happiness Advantage” at and this brought to mind how Amazon out-competes publishers and other book retailers (no matter what you think about devices and DRM). Joel cites a great quote from Marc McLeod of Shoppify, an online retailer site that allows users to...

Discovery and Discoverability

At Jellybooks, a start-up focused on exploring, sampling and sharing books, we are always thinking about how readers discover and share new books. Recently, I had an online debate with others around the question “what is discoverability?” Here some personal thoughts from that discussion:   Discovery I would define this as the process by...

Why We Should Stop Calling it DRM (and Maybe Abandon It Altogether)

DRM is a very misleading description. Every book that is under copyright comes with a form of Digital Rights Management as in author, agent, publishers, distributors, retailers having contracts in place between themselves to manage  the digital rights to an e-book (contracts, not technology being the tool) and copyright law manages the digital rights...

One More Reason Publishers Are Considering Dropping DRM

First a bit of background: The DRM technology used outside Apple and Amazon is Adobe Content Server (ACS), currently in version 4.1. This DRM technology is used by Barnes & Noble, Kobo (but not in all scenarios, i.e. not for its mobile apps, but it IS used for its ereader devices), Sony and many...

Some Tough Questions for Enhanced E-Books

Last week’s Pew study on e-reading gave publishers some hope that consumers might be ready for enhanced e-books. I’m not so sure. If the enhanced e-book is the future, then why is (almost) every enhanced e-book start-up either bankrupt, struggling or has pivoted to something else? Why are most big publishers losing money on...

Breaking Down the Apple-DoJ-Agency Five Saga and Its Ramifications

What could the actions of the Department of Justice mean for e-books? Here’s a breakdown with some scenarios as I understand the situation.   Apple’s Agency Model Publishers selling through Apple can only do so through an agency agreement (a uniform 70%/30% revenue split across all categories and digital products). That is true for...

Why Pottermore Could Change Everything

Some have discussed how Amazon has been disintermediating publishers with its various initiatives. What we witnessed today was the biggest disintermediation ever. We are now seeing an author selling direct to readers without being locked out from the world’s major retail and reading platforms with Pottermore. If you haven’t heard, the news is that...