Publishing books isn't exactly new to businesses. In 2009, Forrester Research executives Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li made a splash with Groundswell, published by Wiley. It may be one of the more visible examples of a business-Forrester-publishing a book (the company got the royalties instead of the authors, the status quo for employees who write business books while employed), but because of the economics of book publishing, that's about to undergo a massive shift.
Who publishes books is already in the throes of change. Amazon's Kindle library is crammed full of titles produced by individuals who avoided working with a publisher at all; they simply format the book for the Kindle and offer it through the Kindle store. That's the route taken by Christopher S. Penn with his Marketing White Belt: Basics for the Digital Marketer. Yes, Amazon gets a cut, but Penn keeps the rest.
E-books (and, for that matter, print on demand) change the economics of publishing in a number of ways. The size of the book no longer matters. If what you have to say requires only 75 pages, that's how long your book can be, whether it's a digital book (like Penn's) or a printed one; I recall a Wordpress theme designer used POD to produce a book on creating themes that was closer to pamphlet length than book length, but unlike mass publishing, size doesn't matter in POD.
The reduced barriers to entry to book publishing have led some non-traditional players to start publishing titles. According to New York Times article, newspaper and magazine publishers are cranking out their own books. Yesterday, the article noted, The Huffington Post issued its second digital book, an account of the campaign to end the U.S. military's don't-ask-don't-tell policy. "How We Won," by Aaron Belkin, joins a list of titles issued by Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Politico, The Boston Globe, ABC News and, yes, The New York Times.
The article points out that the books aren't exactly burning up the bestseller lists (although one has landed in the top 20 of the Times' e-book bestseller list).
But for organizations seeking to build thought leadership (like Russell McGuire did in 2007 when the Sprint executive published the excellent Power of Mobility), getting books by its thought leaders into the marketplace has gotten a lot easier.
It could seem like a bargain for an organization to offer a novella-sized book chock-full of insights and lessons from experienced, innovative subject matter experts. At a mere $5 (or even free), people with an interest in the subject would snatch up books. In our industry, for example, who wouldn't pay $5 to buy a book by Phil Gomes or Steve Rubel, published by Edelman, that offered genuine value to those wanting to learn more about digital media?
I can even envision companies producing books made up of the best of the organization's blogs. Or collections of customer insights into alternative uses of products. What leaps into your mind as a theme for an e-book from your organization?
The concept of content marketing is gaining momentum. Just this week, Canadian financial services company SunLife launched a content site, Brighter Life, loaded with articles, videos and blogs designed to connect people to overcome everyday money, health and family issues. (The social media news release introducing the site is interesting in its own right.) We'll see more of these content portals as the need to generate content that people talk about and share becomes increasingly evident.
But people don't just have computers. They have Kindles and other e-readers, and the imminent launch of Amazon's $250 tablet will make e-books even more desirable. Magazines and newspapers are starting to figure this out.
How long will it be before businesses get on board, adding e-books and POD books to the content they produce?