EMeta sells software tools that allow publishers to securely distribute content on the Web using a wide variety of payment and business models. The company's software, eRights Suite, provides a complete infrastructure for secure digital distribution that can be installed on the in-house servers of publishers.

Now eMeta is launching eRightsWeb, an online service that will provide the same eRights infrastructure in the form of an application service provider (ASP) hosted by eMeta. ERightsWeb will feature a lower entry cost with hosting and maintenance handled by eMeta while offering the same tools for secure digital distribution as eRights Suite. The new service is aimed at publishers, small or large, that lack the in-house technical support staff to maintain the eRights applications.

The eRights software is offered in three modules: Access, Commerce and Services—applications governing security, sales and billing, and authentication and metering services—that can be used together as a suite or individually, based on a company's needs. ERights is already used by a number of book, newspaper and magazine publishers and typically allows readers to retrieve information from a Web site either for one-time payment or by subscription. Among eMeta's customers are Thomson Publishing, McGraw-Hill, Pearson, the New York Times and Reed Elsevier.

Pricing for eRights Suite is $125,000 each for the Access and Commerce modules and $100,000 for the Services component. The publisher-hosted version is aimed at "firms with a big tech-support team," said Jonathan Lewin, president and chief technology officer of eMeta. Prices for the eRightsWeb ASP service is a flat fee of $10,000 up front and a transaction fee of 10% of the revenues generated. "A low price point. We join with the publisher in sharing the costs and risks," said Lewin.

"The eRights Suite allows a publisher to offer all kinds of content, abstracts or book texts, securely by subscription. It's very full-featured and offers a variety of access levels," Lewin said. While 95% of the firm's business is online, Lewin said the technology can also be used to deliver e-newsletters to corporate subscribers.

Textbook companies like McGraw-Hill use eRights to offer supplemental information (textbook purchasers receive a personal log-on code), said Lewin. "It encourages new book sales and discourages used textbook sales." Publishers can use the system to sell access to online books, magazines, databases and directories, said Lewin. The system also offers micropayments, trial subscriptions, product bundling and real-time reporting on such things as billing and usage. "It's a flexible system. Publishers can slice and dice their content; sell rights, subscriptions; offer discounts and promotions; and use the Web to drive subscription sales," said Lewin.

EMeta was founded in 1998 in New York City and has about 45 employees. Among its competitors are FirstGate, Javien and Yaga, but Lewin told PW, "we've been around longer and we've got a wide customer base." Lewin said eMeta revenues were up 30% from last year and "we've been profitable for years."