Papertrell provides platform to help publishers sell e-books directly
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Bengaluru: Papertrell, run by Trellisys.net Pvt. Ltd, is a Bengaluru-based publishing start-up, but in its office, there aren’t many books to be found. Its business is e-books, and the platform lets publishers, independent bookstores and authors create virtual bookstores with their own branding, for free.
The aim, Papertrell says, is to “democratize e-book retailing”, which is dominated by a handful of companies led by Amazon.
Papertrell is in a crowded market of so-called white label e-bookstores, competing with the likes of Gumroad Inc., Aerbook, Inktera LLC, StreetLib, Bluefire and OverDrive. White label e-bookstores let users create e-books and apps, complete with customised logos, icons and screens.
Focusing on the US, and launching in that market first, the company has partnered with Hummingbird Digital Media, a subsidiary of US-based book distributor American West Books, and has on board the catalogues of publishers like HarperCollins, Hachette, Sourcebooks, Workman Publishing and Independent Publishers Group.
“Opening up e-book sales to thousands of merchants will create additional sales for all publishers and help level the playing field for small publishers and retailers who haven’t been able to participate as they should,” said Stephen Blake Lee, president of Hummingbird.
Amazon’s dominance of book retailing was underlined last year when a group of best-selling authors including Stephen King, J.K. Rowling and James Patterson, backed by 900 others, took out a full-page advertisement in The New York Times asking the online marketplace “in the strongest possible terms to stop harming the livelihood of the authors on whom it has built its business”.
That move came amid a dispute between Amazon and Hachette Book Group over how much to charge for e-books and how the revenue should be shared between the retailer, publisher and authors.
“Publishers are really not set up very well to build digital products—that’s an evolution we are currently all on. The Papertrell platform and other solutions like it allow publishers to get access to technologies and skills we are currently lacking without the need for extensive in-house investment and that’s critical to allow us to innovate without impacting our traditional print publishing activities,” said Dave Lee, product director, digital, HarperCollins Publishers LLC.
One of the biggest problems for white label e-book stores is to create the kind of audience reach that would sustain them, but Papertrell is optimistic that they will be able to do so.
Retailers can create stores and populate them with the books of their choice from the publishers’ catalogues. For each book sold through their store, the retailer would earn 12% to 23% of the price.
Each storefront can be customised to include various best-selling lists and promotional offers. The platform also has a dashboard to offer analytics on each consumer, a vital but untapped area for large publishers, said Arun Benty, co-founder, Papertrell.
A consumer can download a generic app, which is available on iOS, Windows, Android, and Kindle Fire, and download the books they want to buy from various publishers.
Benty is clear about the impact his company’s platform can have.
“We may not counter the balance too much as far as Amazon is concerned but we can actually skew the scales just a little bit. We’re not saying don’t sell through Amazon; sell, but also use our platform to drive your own private channel where you have more control over your products,” he said.
The company is expected to launch its catalogue of titles in India, the UK, Canada and Australia by the end of the year.