Independent Canadian publisher D&M is launching an online bookstore that lets users create books, both print and electronic, using their own content or by compiling purchased content from publishers. BookRiff will launch in September, but the company is already entering into deals with publishers to get content for sale on the site. “BookRiff is like an iTunes for print content. You can buy chunks of content,” said president Mark Scott, who bought D&M two years ago, after a career in investment banking.
BookRiff is a Web application that allows users to build custom print books by mixing together pieces of content from publishers and authors, along with their own works and public domain content from the Web—which they can then buy and sell to others, if they want. It is in beta now. Last year, the Canadian software development firm Nitobi Software Inc. worked on building BookRiff, and this past May, it became a shareholder in BookRiff Media Inc., which is principally owned by D&M Publishers.
Scott declined to say which publishers have signed on to BookRiff (although it's a safe bet that D&M's imprints—Douglas & McIntyre, Greystone Books and New Society Publishers—are in), but he did say a “couple dozen publishers, several of the very largest” will be making their content available through BookRiff, and that Canadian publishers will represent just over 10% of all publishers involved in the project. He sees the travel genre as one area where publishers “are under a lot of pressure,” and acknowledged that Lonely Planet's selling of individual chapters online inspired the creation of BookRiff. But Scott said BookRiff won't just be a site for creating travel books. “We're hoping people will use this to create all kinds of collections of content.” He said event planners or companies that want to produce manuals are two groups that would especially benefit from BookRiff. “They can create them and share them at very, very low cost,” he said.
Publishers don't pay a fee to sign up and add their content to BookRiff's pool of material by uploading PDF files. They set the price for their content and BookRiff charges a fixed price per book to customers. To start, the books will be trade paperback, 8½”×5½” and can be printed via Lightning Source or the Espresso Book Machine. Scott said publishers' responses have been “very good, really enthusiastic. Publishers realize they're no longer creating books, they're creating content.”