On The Media

OR Books: The New Frontier of Publishing

I have been listening to a lot of NPR's On The Media podcasts on my way to and from work.  A few weeks ago the show focused on the past, present and future of books, and ultimately the publishing industry as a whole. The November 27th podcast, "Book It", talked about the rising number of new books hitting the shelves every year, and how this number would inevitably increase with the influx of scanned content, e-books, and do-it-yourself publishing. This "content overload" (half a million books published each year) has led to the invention of new business models for publishing and selling written work. One publishing company looking to capitalize on this shift is OR Books, an alternative publisher that is highly selective, publishing only one or two books per month. There are a few things that set this type of model apart from the HarperCollinses of the world. First, they sell directly to you, the consumer. By cutting out the middleman (i.e., Chapters and even Amazon), they are able to keep costs low and print-on-demand or sell content as e-books. Getting rid of storage and additional print costs means less expensive books for you.

Second, by keeping overhead costs low, OR Books is able to offer writers between $50,000 and $100,000 worth of publicity for each book. As co-owner John Oakes puts it "you're more likely to see a Unicorn than a non-celebrity author who has had that kind of publicity commitment from his/her publisher". They are also experimenting with digital channels like Facebook, Twitter, and online publications like BoingBoing and Alternet.

Third, because OR Books is focusing on one or two books per month, the consumer can foster an expectation of the quality and progressive content published. John and his co-founder Colin Robinson have previous experience in politics, history, cultural analysis, popular science, and various forms of literature, including science fiction and translation. They intend to continue to rely on their publishing expertise in these areas.

So far, John notes the experience has "been thrilling, really, to see how quickly consumers have embraced this concept. We've had many thousands of orders, with only a few people even raising the question of why we don't sell via Amazon or any other retailer" While this changed December 1st, when their latest book, Going Rouge, hit stores, it seems like both consumers and producers of the written work stand to benefit from publishers like OR Books.

On a personal level, I often have a hard time sorting through the millions of books to choose from, and will definitely check back on OR Books' site for their "book of the month".

Still not sold? Check out their video: