Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue

03/22/2012

Bookboon = Free Ad-Supported Textbooks ! (On Track to Biggest E-publisher on Earth?)


The Biggest E-Publisher in the World ?

A Denmark enterprise called Bookboom is helping students to free downloadable textbooks in the Scandinavian countries, Germany, the UK and expanding globally. Their current growth rate is 500%. 

Thomas Buus Madsen, co-founder and COO of Bookboon, is the son of a publishing family — his parents own Ventus Publishing, a respected Danish textbook and dictionary publisher.

What a worldwide boon to students this model will be (free textbooks) ! — and to those who will pay for the books: advertisers and prospective employers who want to brand themselves to students 🙂 

This background and enlightening details from Publishing Perspectives by Edward Nawotka :

Is Denmark’s Bookboon the Biggest E-publisher on Earth?

COPENHAGEN: “I don’t think it’s immodest to say it, but I believe we’re the biggest e-book publisher in the world,” says Thomas Buus Madsen, co-founder and COO of Danish e-book publisher Bookboon. “To give just one reason why, over the last weekend in February we registered 970,000 downloads from Friday through Sunday, which was our single biggest weekend so far. In 2011, we had a total of 11 million downloads in all and there’s no reason for us not to hit 50 million by the end of 2012.”

The secret of Bookboon’s popularity: “All our books are free, of course.”

The son of a publishing family — his parents own Ventus Publishing, a respected Danish textbook and dictionary publisher — Madsen was inspired to start Bookboon after watching a fellow student at university take the one copy of a textbook for a particular class out of the school library, make 50 photocopies and start selling them in front of the classroom. “I’d spent my whole childhood packing physical books for my parents, but once I saw that, I knew textbook publishing didn’t have a long-term perspective.”

Working with his brother, Madsen launched the company in 2005, initially focusing providing academic textbooks and business books for the Danish market. The business model was simple: provide free e-books and pay for them by embedding advertising every three to five pages in the book. The two had previously worked on the launch of the free newspaper METRO in the Danish market and were confident it could work. Sales teams were established across Europe and managed to attract advertisers keen to reach students.

The range of titles focused on specific verticals, including accounting and economics, IT and engineering, and management and personal development. This helped with advertising: “We’re not doing fiction,” says Madsen, “these are factual books that have a lot of readers who are potential employees for companies. So, we are are looking at advertisers who are trying to brand themselves to students. Some, like Dell, want to sell them a computer, others, like the London Business, promote their graduate and executive education programs.” (The company says it will not take ads for alcohol, gambling, pay day loans or similar activities that will “ultimately diminish the seriousness of the books.”) Advertisers include several top commercial brands, such as UBS, IKEA, Accenture, Volvo, Maersk and Ericsson, to name just a few.

So far, model has proven a success. In 2006, Bookboon expanded to Sweden, and then to Germany and the Netherlands in 2007, but it wasn’t until their move into the UK and English books in 2008 that growth truly exploded, “English is the universal language — it is everywhere,” says Madsen. The company was helped by a timely feature on the BBC last year and since then the site has been doubling in traffic, with downloads growing at a rate of 500%.

The current catalog totals 1,000 titles, and Madsen expects to add another 300 this year.  Authors are recruited by the company to write books in their local languages — “we don’t translate,” says Madsen, “because something is always lost” — and the writers are paid based on the advertising revenue generated by the book and the number of downloads.”

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