Given e-books’ recent growth in the trade, professional books are clearly ahead of the digital curve. Books24x7 was one of the earliest companies in the professional e-book space, licensing and repackaging e-books for IT professionals on a subscription basis for nearly two decades. A subsidiary of SkillSoft since 2001, Books24x7 was founded in 1994 in Norwood, Mass., specifically “to offer powerful, easy-to-use electronic publishing products that take advantage of the familiar book metaphor,” according to an early mission statement. Over the intervening years, as e-books and ways of staying connected have evolved, so has the company.
Last year, Books24x7 launched inGenius, a program designed to take advantage of the popularity of Twitter and Facebook. This social networking platform for subscribers enables people within a company to share notes, comments, and ratings on the material they read. “InGenius is definitely one of the ‘game changers,’ ” said Pam Boiros, v-p of product management at Books24x7. To date, 250 corporations have added inGenius to their portals; that’s out of Books24x7’s roughly 1,500 corporate customers, who are more than half of SkillSoft’s customer base.
Since Books24x7 is device agnostic, it has been able to keep up with the proliferation of mobile devices and e-readers, including iPads and Kindles, and is optimized for delivery to smaller screens. “We pride ourselves on giving access wherever you can go on the Internet,” said Boiros. Individual subscribers, she said, tend to be reading individual pages, sections, and chapters of e-books rather than the entire book. “What we sell is large, topically oriented aggregated selections,” explained Boiros. They come from an online library that contains more than 30,000 titles across IT, business, and engineering, which have been converted to DocBookXML, a markup language especially suited for technical books and papers. With so many publishers turning to digital asset managers, Books24x7 is often able to post books on the print publication date.
Books24x7’s goal is to monetize publishers’ content through sales of whole books as well as licensing fees. It has a buy-book page on every link in its offerings. Although the default bookseller is Amazon, publishers can redirect the link to any online bookseller. Boiros also sees potential for publishers to spin off content. “We can tell the publisher for any given book that 25% of the page views are from chapter five. Does that offer an opportunity for a new edition or a derivative work? Publishers get access to these reports from a self-service site, and they get used extensively,” she said.
Boiros sees “tremendous opportunity” for Books24x7 in the future. “People are more and more comfortable with digital content,” she noted. “In the early days they asked, ‘How can I print this out?’ ”