Created by the founders of BookSurge, the print-on-demand vendor acquired by Amazon, BiblioBoard is a new app and e-publishing platform that offers a library of public domain content bundled into subject category anthologies. The BiblioBoard app offers these BiblioLife anthologies at different prices, and by using Nuvique, a BiblioLabs digital authoring tool, allows an individual, or any large institution, to publish content and brand it through the BiblioBoard channel.
BiblioBoard is a product of BiblioLabs, the company set up by the BookSurge founders, chief business officer Mitchell Davis and CEO Andrew Roskill, after Amazon acquired BookSurge in 2005. The company also owns BiblioBazaar, which it continues to run, offering POD editions of public domain content, producing up to 1,000 print books a day. “That’s when we were in the print business. Now we’ve transitioned to digital publishing,” said Davis during a phone interview. In addition to BiblioBoard and BiblioBazaar, BiblioLabs owns BiblioLife, the imprint that produces the anthologies to be sold through the BiblioBoard app.
The BiblioBoard app was launched in August with a list of 100 “anthologies” of public domain content. “BiblioBoard offers a library of books on all kinds of historical topics,” Davis said, noting the company has amassed a large archive of public domain content from its POD businesses. BiblioBoard’s digital anthologies are publications that focus on specific subject areas, such as Castles: An Anthology; Trains: The History and Pleasures of Railroading, and Baseball: America’s Favorite Game. Each of BiblioBoard’s digital anthologies offers a bundle of 75 or more books of all kinds on the topic selected by the BiblioLabs staff—the baseball anthology, for example, includes the 1913 novel Baseball Joe at Yale by Lester Chadwick and How to Play Baseball by Connie Mack (1903)—in addition to other kinds of content ranging from images and period guides to newspapers, journals, and letters. Most of the initial anthologies are offered through the app by BiblioLife and sell for about $9.99 though a $15.99 price was tested. But pricing is flexible, Davis said, who pointed out that third-party content owners can release branded anthologies through BiblioBoard at any price they choose, including for free.
Using Nuvique, BiblioLabs’ free self-service authoring tool, pretty much anyone can create multimedia anthologies and sell—or give away—through the BiblioBoard app. The company is aiming to attract institutional clients such as libraries and museums that have digital collections (with copyrights they own) or, Davis said, public domain material they can use to generate revenue. “For organizations with archives, artifacts, a story, and no budget, we’ve created a tool they can use to make money. We’re a long-tail marketplace,” Davis said, emphasizing that Nuvique allows institutions with big unsearchable archival collections to provide access to the public as well as generate revenue. The British Library was one of its first partners and used the platform to create a stand-alone British Library 19th Century Collection app that offers paid access (for a one-time charge of $89.99) to more than 65,000 titles. While the British Library app has been successful (250,000 downloads in three weeks from more than 160 countries), Davis said the app offers a vast amount of content and can overwhelm consumers, so BiblioLabs switched to organizing content in smaller, themed anthologies. “BiblioBoard allows academic institutions to disaggregate large collections,” he said, breaking them down into digestible content categories that make it easier for consumers to find and buy content—whether books, photos, maps, or videos—in new ways.
In addition to the British Library, Davis said BiblioLabs is partnering with the American Alpine Club, which is creating a mountaineering anthology, while the San Diego Air and Space Museum is creating anthologies on Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh. Indie press Red Wheel/Weiser is working on a variety of anthologies, and a University of Colorado musicology professor is creating an anthology for class use instead of a traditional textbook.
Pricing, Davis said, is determined by the content owners, and BiblioLabs takes a percentage. But pricing the anthologies remains an question; “$9.99 for a library of content seems like a value proposition, but there are some anthologies priced at $4.99. We’re trying to find a sweet spot,” Davis said. And the firm is also talking to agents, promoting the use of BiblioBoard as a digital publishing platform for their authors. The company has a staff of about 26 people, mostly based in Charleston, S.C. It’s hired a librarian to oversee the selections for its initial anthologies, which “were based on our bestselling POD titles,” Davis said, “and some of our staff had knowledge in certain categories.”
Davis said BiblioBoard will begin offering a Web-based version of the app in October and is considering offering support beyond the iPad. “Right now we just want people to use it,” Davis said. “We’re an agile development environment. We look at what’s working, and we can shift around and get the right things into the marketplace.”