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BW Businessworld

'We Will Help The Overall Book Market Grow'

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Three publishing giants recently launched a book portal bookish.com. The online book discovery platform backed by Simon & Schuster, Hachette and Penguin was launched on 12 February. Given that not many sectors see a trend of companies coming together to cater to 'customer' needs, the publishing industry is, perhaps, spearheading a trend in order to capture more readers, boost sales and more importantly bring book lovers under one umbrella. Ardy Khazaei, its CEO says the purpose of bookish is to connect readers with the books they love. In an e-mail interview, Khazaei explains the idea behind the portal and its business model to BW Online's Sanjitha Rao Chaini

Why this portal? What's wrong with e-retailers selling books?
There's nothing wrong with e-retailers. They are very good at selling books. However, with the closure of so many bookstores, consumers have lost an important environment for discovering new books and authors. This is where Bookish comes into the picture -- our purpose is to connect readers with books and authors that they love, or will come to love by discovering them. And as we make progress on this front, we serve another one of our important goals, which is to help the overall book market grow. When a consumer finds a book that they like and didn't know about, it frequently leads to a purchase (whether it's directly on our site, or by clicking through to one of our affiliate partner websites).
 

How does coming together of three major publishing houses benefit e-consumers?
The benefit is, that by having an important foundation to begin with in the form of these investor publishers, we were then able to attract participation and partnerships with all other major publishers -- and a large number of independent publishers - to work with us to provide content and data that populates and provides depth of value to consumers. The rest of the industry felt that this was an important venture to serve readers and the industry, and so Bookish has become a true single-source destination for consumers who are interested in books of any type.
 
Tell us a bit about your business model...
Our source of revenue is advertising/sponsorship, and e-commerce (either through direct purchase on Bookish.com, or affiliate fees received as a result of users clicking through to buy books elsewhere using the "More Buying Options" feature).
 
Do you think e-books will soon take over the sales figures of printed format? How do you think e-reading will play out in countries such as India?
I think that this is likely to happen eventually, but I don't think that it will happen in the next few years. In fact, based on the research that I have been exposed to, it looks like the growth in sales of e-books is slowing down, and now we have a bifurcated market of e-adopters and e-resistors… This latter group will get smaller over time as the younger generation grows up and their habits contribute more and more to the overall stats, but I can't really say how long that all will take.
 
With regard to e-reading in India, I know that the government has been discussing providing broad access to a low-cost tablet/e-reader. I don't know how that is progressing, but if it does, this will obviously contribute quite a bit to the e-reading adoption. On the other hand, I also gather that there is some cultural resistance to using credit cards online, which dampens all forms of e-commerce, of which e-books is one example, so I suppose that unless this obstacle is also overcome, broad adoption of e-reading could be hindered beyond the availability of reading devices.

How do you plan to support independent writers and self-published authors through your portal?
Currently, given our resource constraints, and the nature of the data feeds required to support the millions of book pages on our site, we are only able to work with authors who are published by independent/small publishers or larger publishers.
 
At some point in future do you think publishing houses will become redundant? What is your take on it?
 
I very much doubt it. I believe that there will always be authors who can succeed on their own, and it's great that the Web and self-publishing have made this possible, but from my experience, the editorial, marketing/publicity and distribution expertise that a publisher can provide, are of great value to authors.
 
In publishing, how does one work out the legal framework across mediums such as the printed format, electronic content and audio books?
It's been a little while since my years at HarperCollins where I dealt with these issues, but in most cases, the author's agent negotiates these rights with a publisher. The norm, at least with major publishers, is that they require the print and electronic rights at a minimum. The audio book rights may be included in that agreement, which the publisher may exercise and publish, or license to another publisher who specialises more in audio books. Alternatively, the audio rights go straight to another publisher.
 
Your recent book reads. And do you prefer printed version or digital format?
Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese (read it on my iPad) and The Sense Of An Ending by Julian Barnes (read the hardcover).
 
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