Thursday, October 31, 2013

Harper Launches Reader App and Direct eBook Sales, Starting with CS Lewis

Publishers Lunch

HarperCollins has relaunched their CS Lewis and Narnia websites, adding for the first time a direct-sales ebookstore to both sites, selling Lewis's work in English in ebook editions in major territories around the world. As part of that new ebook sales offer, they have launched a branded Harper Reader app on iOS and Android. A customized version of the Bluefire Reader, it displays the encrypted EPUB files that Harper is selling -- along with digital "extras" that Harper is offering their direct customers. So when you download the app, it comes with an "exclusive" free copy of Beyond the Wardrobe: The Official Guide to Narnia. (Separately, Adobe -- which manages ebook DRM via Adobe Digital Editions -- revealed yesterday that the security breach they disclosed in early October was far bigger than initial reports, comprising 38 million customer accounts. You've probably gotten an email suggesting you change your ADE login.)

Harper chief digital officer Chantal Restivo-Alessi says in the press release, "Launching a platform that allows HarperCollins to establish a direct-to-consumer marketing and sales proposition to expand some of its strongest brands to new audiences means we honor both our past and our present." She tells us "this is really meant to be a service offer for our authors" and says they began with the work of CS Lewis because "the estate was interested in having a retailing offer that they would be able to manage." Restivo-Alessi adds, "This is all a journey; we're starting to walk, slowly." She says they expect to have "a progressive rollout on different properties, as they tell us they are interested," but have no immediate plans for the next offers. The focus will be on adding direct ebook sales for particular brands and authors, rather than the entire HarperCollins catalog.

Restivo-Alessi says that the current descriptive copy and sample screens shown in the Apple and Android app stores are misleading (showing a broad selection of Harper titles, and indicating the Harper Reader app provides "instant access to thousands of ebook titles") and will be corrected. The CS Lewis online offers also provide referral links to all major ebook retailers, so customers have choices available. The new offer "is not meant to be adversarial" with Harper's retail network, but rather is about "giving incremental options to an estate or author."

More broadly, Restivo-Alessi underscores that "we're about providing as many services as we think we can deliver to our authors." Generally speaking the authors' proceeds are accounted for the same way when Harper sells direct as when they sell through etail partners. "We'll reflect the difference in [selling] costs, but we'll do the same splits."

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