Besides an avalanche of programming and keynote presentations, O'Reilly Media's recent Tools of Change Conference also featured about 35 exhibitors in two locations in the Sheraton Hotel in New York as well as panelists and roving bands of digital entrepreneurs looking to show off their Web sites, applications, and business models. PW was able to talk to a few of them and take a look at their platforms.
Jouve is a 100-year-old French printer that has transformed itself into an international new media publishing services provider, converting, designing, and distributing digital content. The company is an Apple-authorized partner with offices in the U.S. (Vermont and New York City) as well as Europe. Emmanuel Benoit, executive v-p of marketing and corporate strategy, described Jouve as an "upstream" publishing services provider that can handle all manner of digital outputs, such as adding rich content like video and audio to e-books as well as offering print on demand. Jouve also specializes in foreign languages and has systems that can handle 25 different languages, with plans to add Chinese and Japanese.
The company has acquired two conversion firms—e-book processor Publishing Dimensions, in New York, in 2007 and e-book processor TexTech, in India, last year. Jouve's clients include Hachette, Penguin, and John Wiley. Benoit said Jouve also markets its services to small publishers. The firm is sponsoring an invitation-only digital publishing summit conference for senior executives in Paris on April 7; it will feature presentations by Ingram Content Group CEO Skip Prichard; Ron Dunn, CEO of Cengage Learning; Blurb CEO Ellen Gittins; and Bob Young, president of Lulu.com.
Mirasol Displays has developed an intriguing new screen technology—essentially an e-ink screen that offers low power consumption and supports color and multimedia. PW profiled the Qualcomm firm during CES and caught up with Mirasol marketing director Cheryl Goodman at TOC, who said the company was "here talking to publishers. We need to be smarter about content and they need to learn more about the delivery of curated digital content." Goodman said that Mirasol has invested nearly a billion dollars to build a new factory in Taiwan to make Mirasol display devices. The company has one other small factory, but Goodman said that while there is great interest in Mirasol Display technology, the company is currently unable to produce the volume of components needed by large partners, but she expects that to change. The company is supplying three partners with its screens, and Goodman expects to see more of its technology in the U.S. this year.
Jeff Shelstad, cofounder and CEO of Flatworld Knowledge, an "open source" textbook publisher that offers its textbooks for free online while selling ancillary digital products tied to the texts and licensing content to schools, was part of a panel on investing in digital startups. Shelstad knows something about raising funds; Flatworld Knowledge had raised about $11 million in funding since it was founded in 2007, and in January the company announced another $15 million in funding from Bertelsmann AG and Bessemer Venture Partners. Shelstad said he was on hand to talk about attracting venture capital as well as to talk about the Flatworld business model, in particular its institutional digital site licenses, deals that allow a university student to pay a flat fee for complete access to the full suite of ancillary digital products tied to a particular text. The license can dramatically reduce the cost of textbook content to students, and Flatworld has inked two such site licenses—at Virginia State University and Baruch College in New York—in the past year. Shelstad said that Flatworld is expanding its textbook offerings into the larger general educational market with original textbooks on algebra, English, and other subjects and is "looking aggressively to expand our institutional site licenses. We're in discussions now with a number of schools."
Also at TOC were the cofounders of Paper C, a German startup that provides free online access to the full text of books with the added feature of being able to download and print sections of the book for a fee or to purchase the full title. Cofounders Martin Fröhlich and Felix Hofmann explained that the site offers viewers the ability to read the full text of any of its titles for up to 45 minutes (after an hour downtime, the viewer gets another 45 minutes), but viewers can also download a PDF of a page or a chapter for a price. Hofmann called the site a "YouTube for textbooks," but Paper C licenses about 10,000 texts from more than 70 publishers, and the site is about 50% German and 50% English-language. Revenues are split 50/50 with the publishers, and publishers that license more than 1,000 titles get a 60/40 split. Publishers range from O'Reilly Media to Springer-Verlag and Pearson as well as many European publishers and has attracted more than 80,000 users since it was launched at the end of 2009. Hofmann said it offers usage data and feedback (naturally it offers social media links to Twitter and Facebook) that can be useful as a promotional tool for publishers. Fröhlich said the site was focused on business, technology, and science, but was expanding into general nonfiction topics.