Saturday, December 27, 2008

Publishing: Iceberg Ahead

Photo: Café Pirouette Art Print by Michael L. Kingl,

By Pat Browning

Listening to NBC-TV news with one ear, I heard a familiar name: Leonard Riggio. There he was on the screen, looking like a big teddy bear of a grandfather, not at all like the chairman of a powerful bookstore chain and a noted philanthropist.

Riggio is CEO of Barnes and Noble, and donated $20-million--the largest philanthropic gift from a single individual--to rebuild homes in New Orleans, an effort known as Project Home Again.

Riggio built 20 homes, creating an entire neighborhood for families whose homes had been lost to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Families were given free rein to pick out their furniture. All they had to do was walk right in and start living in their brand new homes.

Ten years ago, give or take, while I was writing my first mystery and thinking of self-publishing, iUniverse had an excellent chat room going, and one of the guests was Leonard Riggio.

Print-on-demand publishing was just coming on the scene. Mr. Riggio predicted that within a year, give or take, Barnes and Noble stores would have a kiosk out front where customers could dial-a-book and have a cup of coffee while it was being printed and bound.

Hasn’t happened yet, but the furor created by POD publishing seems downright quaint today. Publishing has moved on. First there came Palm Pilot, then Amazon’s hugely popular Kindle, and now, by gar, you can read books on your cell phone. Introducing … ScrollMotion and its Iceberg e-reader.

From Publishers Weekly, 12/23/2008:

****ScrollMotion, a two year old iPhone application development company, has launched Iceberg, an e-book reader for the iPhone with titles from six publishers: Random House, Hachette, Penguin, Counterpoint, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Simon & Schuster.

“What makes the software different,” said ScrollMotion’s chief literary officer Calvin Baker, “is that each book is a self-contained app. You download the book, not a piece of software.” Iceberg mimics the natural reading experience, allowing the user to “flip” the page with a swipe of the finger and uses the iPhone and iTouch’s interface to allow for scrolling, shrinking and expanding text, bookmarking and note taking. **** on the same date released a little more information about e-reading:

****Naturally Scrollmotion isn't the only company rolling out mobile e-book reading applications. Penguin books recently released their Penguin Mobile reader software while Random House has signed a deal with Stanza, bringing Stanza's mobile literary library to over 40,000 titles.
Meanwhile HaperCollins has taken a slightly different route, making classic titles such as those by Dickens and Shakespeare available to Nintendo DS users. … Typically Amazon has kept sales figures under wraps, although predictions estimate that the Kindle might be amounting to as much as 12% of Amazon's overall book sales, suggesting a ready market for Scrollmotion.
Unlike Scrollmotion, the one thing Amazon has at its core is experience. Before Josh Koppel (founder of Scrollmotion) had even graduated from college, Amazon was building up its empire and more importantly, building relationships with publishers. These relationships mean Amazon can sell e-books at around 30-40% cheaper than most other mobile publishing platforms.
Despite this significant strength, there is one major reason why Scrollmotion could stand as a serious threat to the internet giant; Scrollmotion doesn't require an e-book reader. Yes, Scrollmotion requires only an iPod or iPhone and … these have become hugely successful with over 174 million sales for the iPod alone. Although Amazon have yet to release meaningful figures regarding Kindle sales, Scrollmotion can sleep soundly knowing it is nowhere near 174 million.
Although they may have 174 million potential users of the Iceberg technology, Scrollmotion are not limiting themselves to the Apple devises and plan to release the application for Android and Blackberry users as well.
Once referred to as "the Woody Allen of Cyberspace", Josh Koppel is no stranger to the world of online retail. His successful back catalogue of mobile applications as well as support from major book publishers suggests Iceberg could be a very successful mobile application. What's more important is Scrollmotion's ability to transform the iPod into a digital library, which could change the way we read in a very significant way

And so this old year hobbles off the stage, and the spotlight shifts to a brand new year. Sit back. Sip a cup of coffee. Think long thoughts.

Good reading and writing in 2009!


amakapreneur said...

humbs up to you guys. i am so thrilled with mysteries and you are doing well.

Morgan Mandel said...

So far, I downloaded Stanza for my Iphone, but it's good to know about other avenues for ebooks on the Iphone.

Morgan Mandel

Jean Henry Mead said...

It's definitely the current rage, and I'm sure electronic books are going to keep growing in volume, no matter what the economic climate happens to be.

Jaden Terrell said...

Mindboggling. Great info, Pat. I hope you'll keep us posted on this--looks like we'll have to learn how to get our books on the iphones!

Terrie Farley Moran said...

Hi Pat,

And my phone doesn't even take pictures! I am so far behind, I'll never catch up.


Chester Campbell said...

I saw the NBC bit on Riggio. He did a great thing in New Orleans. I wish he'd get B&N to donate a special section to us small press writers.

I got an email a few days ago from, which says it has a program that converts your ebooks into the iPhone format. They have a royalty program that I plan to look into.