In a development that aims to raise the level of book discoverability while also offering an "end run" around Amazon, Inkling, a software developer specializing in creating multimedia content for the iPad, is launching the Inkling Content Discovery Platform, a way of structuring Inkling content that can be indexed by Google and link Web searches directly to enriched and saleable content within a book. Inkling CEO and founder Matt MacInnis will debut the ICDP technology at the Digital Book World conference in New York on Thursday.
“Search is the new store front,” said MacInnis during a phone interview with PW, “the future of publishing is monetizing the web.” The ICDP seems to do just that. ICDP structures Inkling content so that Google searches not only pickup the appropriate content, but also provide a link that takes the reader directly into an Inkling developed online version of the book, complete with any multimedia content it may feature. In other words, the reader is not linked simply to a page on Amazon, a publisher's catalog, or descriptive information about the book on the author's Web site, but to the actual content the user if looking for. MacInnis also emphasized that ICDP is principally aimed at content like guides, how-to, travel works, DIY, cookbooks, parenting books, or reference works--books and topics that drive a lot of consumer traffic via Google searches. “It works best with content like Frommer's, maps, usable content that will look great on an iPhone,” MacInnis said. “Our technology will make the content look beautiful. Amazon will still be here and dominate in fiction, but this offers publishers an end run around Amazon.”
Once a user clicks through the link and is within the desired content, MacInnis said, the consumer can navigate through a limited section of the book, sample its features and rich media content and, of course, buy the book or a buy a section of the book. All content is available in downloadable “chunks,” for purchase. MacInnis used the Open Air Publishing title, Wine Simplifed ($14,99 for the book, $2.99 per chapter) as an example. The user needs to use an up-to-date version of Firefox, Safari or Chrome browser to do a Google search. Once Google delivers the link, the reader can navigate through the title, use all the mutlimedia features. IDCP still offers all of Inkling’s multimedia functionality, from animated tours, interactive graphics and high resolution photography to video content.
However, while the whole title is available, MacInnis explained, users are limited to about five navigational clicks through the book. He emphasized that with the ICDP, publishers can “allow access to their content and the content is protected." ICDP is based on what MacInnis calls “card” technology, which he said is anagolous to a print “page” but more flexible and stretches as long as it needs to cover a topic.
Inkling currently offers about 400 titles which have all been “structured” with the ICDP to be indexable by Google. And while ICDP at first seems a bit like Google Books, it is quite different from offering “snippets” of text. MacInnis also noted that Inkling has “reached agreements with all the publishers to display their content,” and he emphasized that ICDP is structured to show the publishers all the data on usage of their content. ICDP is also based on selling parts of books, “chunks, from chapters to the whole book.” Inkling provides the digital buy button and also takes a 30% or more commission on each sale.
The Inkling Content Discovery Platform requires, “a web-based reader, structured content, indexing by Google, all the rights in place and the ability to sell in chunks, “ he said. And the platform also allows users to distribute access to ICDP content through social media channels like Twitter and Facebook.
“Google loves it,” MacInnis said, "We’re putting more content in their searches.” While Inkling was originally developed to convert textbook content into multimedia-enriched texts, MacInnis said the company will offer “much more consumer oriented nonfiction over the next 18 months, thousands of academic and trade titles.” In addition, Inkling has a deal with Follett to sell download codes for the titles through its physical college stores.
“We believe this shift to search as storefront is fundamental and inevitable,” MacInnis said, “and it shifts the advantage away from Amazon.”