Barnes & Noble has taken a significant step in the digital publishing sphere with its launch of Quamut.com, a how-to Web site. The site offers free online guides on more than 1,000 topics, including getting out of debt, hanging wallpaper, mastering tai chi, learning Spanish travel phrases and buying a laptop.
Quamut—Latin for “how-to” and pronounced “kwómut”—guides are commissioned by editors, written by experts, fact-checked, copyedited and enhanced with illustrations and photographs. “Quamut.com positions Barnes & Noble as a leader in digital how-to publishing,” said Dan Weiss, publisher and managing director of Quamut.com. The company simultaneously publishes all content in two formats: as HTML content and as downloadable PDFs. In some cases, Weiss said, Quamut guides are also available as a four-to-six page laminated printed charts, available for purchase at Barnes & Noble stores and BN.com.
The business is supported through three revenue streams: advertising through display ads and Google AdSense, the sale of full-color PDFs ($2.95), and the sale of laminated printed charts ($5.95 each). Many ads on the site are for books related to the subject at hand; for instance, the guide to stretching features an ad for books about stretching, with the line “Learn more with these titles from Barnes & Noble.”
“The advertising-driven business model allows us to give content away for free online,” said Weiss. “The free aspect combined with the diverse breadth of information available at Quamut.com, creates a place people will visit time and time again, and in turn we feel the site will be very enticing to advertisers.”
"Since we don't need to fill up entire books on each subject, our guides can cover everything from narrowly focused topics such as how to fix a leaky faucet, to broad subjects like how to play the piano," said Ben Florman, co-founder of Quamut.com. Quamut will add hundreds of new guides to the site each month. A sister site, Q-Wiki allows anyone to make contributions to the content through a wiki platform.