The Future of the Ebook

Founders Fund Bets on Oyster, a Subscription-Based eBook Business

The cofounders. (Photo: Courtesy Oyster)

An under-the-radar local startup named Oyster has raised a $3 million seed round, GigaOm reports, led by Founders Fund. Other backers include SV Angel, Founder Collective, Shari Redstone’s Advancit Capital, Chris Dixon, Sam Altman and others. But despite the foodie-friendly name, the company has other designs–namely, to feed you books to read on your iPhone.

As cofounder Eric Stromberg explained to Betabeat via email, “Simply put, we are building the best way to read books on your phone, and we think we accomplish that through the subscription model,” he added. Read More

The Future of the Ebook

One Direction Fan Fiction Now the Fastest Route to a Book Deal

(Photo: Penguin)

In the old days, back before single-serving Tumblrs and pithy Twitter accounts, you had to be talented or rich or well-connected to nab a book deal. Now, with the democratization power of the Internet, you need a wifi connection and a slightly unhinged obsession with raunchy BDSM sex or a boy band. Welcome to 2012, you guys. Aren’t you just so proud of how far we’ve come? Read More

Wiki World

You Can Now Make Your Own Free eBook Out of Wikipedia Articles

(Photo: Wikimedia)

If you tend to spend a fair amount of your time online submerged in a Wikipedia K-hole, mindlessly clicking the “Random Article” link until you snap out of it two hours later deeply engrossed in the entry for Kanye West’s song “Power,” then we have some good news for you. Wikipedia has enabled a new feature that allows you to seamlessly curate your own eBook out of Wikipedia articles, all for free. Read More

The Future of the Ebook

What the Dickens? How Plympton Plans to Revive Serial Fiction

Little Nell, the Bella Swan of her day. (Public domain image via

When Amazon flipped the switch on its Serials program last Thursday, it also served as the debut of a new startup: Plympton, founded by journalist Jennifer 8 Lee and novelist Yael Goldstein Love. The company is contributing three of the eight titles inaugurating the initiative: The Many Lives of Lilith Lane, a paranormal YA mystery; Hacker Mom, dubbed a “mom thriller”; and Love Is Strong as Death, a mystery.

Plympton’s founders describe the company as a “literary studio,” functioning a little like a publishing house and a little like a movie studio. Their mission? Nothing less than using new technology to  reinvigorate a storytelling form that publishing left for dead decades ago. (Naturally, there’s a Kickstarter campaign.)

“What we care about is actually just bringing back this format, because we do think it would be good for literature,” Ms. Love told Betabeat. “It’s good for writers, it’s good for readers, it’s good for the state of American literature.” Read More

The Future of the Ebook

Ebook Prices Cleared to Take a Nose Dive After Judge Approves Settlement

MWAHAHA! (Photo:

Good news for cheapskates, bad news for traditional publishing: “Agency pricing,” which many in the book business had hoped would prove a defense against Amazon’s discounting every new book to $9.99, is pretty much finito as of today.

A bit of background: At issue is the agency model, which first came into play when Apple debuted the iPad and began talking to publishers about ebooks. Apple liked the sound of an agency model, where publishers would set the price and and Apple would merely act as agent, taking a cut of the transaction. This looked like a way of finally breaking Amazon’s iron-fisted insistence on charging $9.99 for a standard new release, which would otherwise go for $25.00 in print. Read More

The Future of the Ebook

Gadget? What Gadget? Amazon Doubles Down on Content, Looks to the Really Long Term

"But I really like the wall scrolls feel in my hands." -- Cicero. Not you. (Photo:

Were you watching closely during Amazon’s Kindle press conference? Because if you were, you just saw Jeff Bezos make one of those centuries-long bets his friends are always talking about. Behold, the literary equivalent of the Clock of the Long Now–a bet on a future where ereaders are about as out-of-the-ordinary as a tea kettle or a wristwatch.

There were several interesting details in the publishing portion of the announcements. The good, old-fashioned Kindle ereader got several updates, including a paperwhite background, more fonts, and a backlight that’ll go eight weeks without a charge. All that’ll now set you back a mere $69. The company’s publishing arm also debuted a brand new form, between the single and the full-length book: Kindle Serials, at $1.99 a pop and seamlessly, automatically updated with each new installment.

Charles Dickens would be so proud. (He’d also probably write a great serialized novel about people who work in Amazon fulfillment centers.) Read More


Booting Up: Turns Out Tech Companies Love Cities Edition

Good morning, sunshine! (Photo:

Bloggers: If you must accept a free plane ticket, be sure to get an old-fashioned, non-refundable paper return ticket, too. [The Next Web]

Wolfram Alpha now offers personal Facebook analytics, for the ultra-obsessed and the assiduous builders of their personal brands out there. [The Verge]

Okay, who told Richard Florida about Silicon Alley? Now we’ll never hear the end of it. [Wall Street Journal]

Good news: If you’re an ebook buyer, you’re eventually going to get a tiny refund. Bad news: It’ll be about 25 cents per book, and it’ll likely take years. [Paid Content]

The founder of The Pirate Bay has reportedly been arrested in Cambodia. [TorrentFreak]

The Future of the Ebook

Ebook Authors No Longer Hot for Harlequin, Slap the Romance Publisher with a Lawsuit [UPDATED]

One of the books at issue.

Three romance novelists have filed a class action lawsuit in the Southern District of New York against juggernaut Harlequin Enterprises, alleging that the publisher is not coughing up the ebook royalties they were promised.

Broken Promises–now that sounds like something that would catch our eye while browsing the bookshelves.

First, a bit of context: Harlequin Enterprises is the world’s largest publisher of romance novels. In the U.S. alone, that’s a billion-dollar market. As the suit points out, the company churns out books for 114 international markets, in 34 languages, to the tune of more than 100 books a month.

Second (and this is why Betabeat gives a damn), Harlequin has embraced digital formats in a big way, going all the way back to the pre-Kindle Dark Ages. And in 2010, the company even launched Carina Press, its own digital-only subsidiary. Carina, it should be noted, eschews the traditional advance model and promises higher royalties. (None of the books at issue were published by Carina, however.) Read More