Facebook app to the rescue – of book publishers

Stellar Startups: BookPulse provides a method for publishers to manage networks of fan pages, which enables them to leverage successful and popular books to help readers discover new books.

books_311 (photo credit: Morguefile)
(photo credit: Morguefile)
How’s this for irony: A Facebook app – designed for use on the computers, smartphones and tablets that are ostensibly killing the printed word – will actually help publishers sell more books!
Actually, despite the eulogies that have been pronounced over the book business, more of them are sold now than five years ago. Ironically, the Internet is at least partially responsible for that growth; there are many websites dedicated to book reviews, and online book clubs have sprouted like mushrooms after the rain. People don’t just like to read; they like to talk about books too.
And the book business isn’t doing badly, either. According to the Association of American Publishers, sales of physical print books were up in 2010 over 2009 by 3.6 percent. E-book sales were up a whopping 164%, and while figures aren’t available for 2011 yet, it stands to reason that the ebook segment will have shot up this year as iPads and Kindles became ever more popular over the past year.
But while the industry seems to be adjusting to the digital revolution, publishers face many challenges that will upend the way they have been doing things for decades: to the extent that some, if not many, of today’s big publishing houses may find themselves facing “the end” if things continue as they have been going.
There is a 500-pound gorilla in the rarefied precincts of book publishing these days – and its name is Amazon, says Ronny Golan, CEO and founder of BookPulse (bookpulse.com).
“The biggest threats to the traditional model of book publishing today is from Apple and especially Amazon,” he says. “Writers see how Amazon, for example, adds value to their work, but they don’t necessarily see how publishers do so anymore.”
That’s because the whole business of selling books has become upended by Amazon and other online bookstores. Until just a few years ago, getting books into prime spots in bookstores was a major part of the services sellers provided.
With the death of major book chains (Borders) or their transition to online sales outlets (Barnes and Noble and others), publishers have become secondary (or even tertiary) to the whole business of selling books, which has been taken over by online stores.
It won’t be long, Golan says, until Amazon or Apple open up their own publishing services – basically booking traditional publishers out of business!
Golan believes BookPulse is the solution to the publishing industry’s woes. Selling in the digital age is largely about relationships, hence the phenomenon of companies opening Facebook pages for products and campaigns.
Why not do the same thing for books and publishers? That’s essentially the idea behind BookPulse: marshalling social media to allow publishers to build relationships with customers, allowing them to sell more books either directly, via Amazon or via other online bookstores that perhaps will given them a better deal than Amazon.
“Publishers need to learn to become marketers in the digital age,” Golan says, “and that is done today through social media, especially Facebook.”
BookPulse is a platform to enable publishers to do just that, with a series of online apps that readers can interact with and use. Surprisingly, no one before had figured out that Facebook and other social media was a good way to sell books – even though, as Golan points out, there are many popular books with their own Facebook pages.
“Those pages were usually set up by fans, and they often have thousands of fans,” Golan says. “But nearly all of them have absolutely no content other than perhaps the Wikipedia entry on the book.”
It’s an opportunity just waiting for someone to take advantage of – and BookPulse helps publishers to do just that.
Not by opening corporate pages for publishers (those don’t work, Golan says), but by building apprich pages for books that people want to read. By using popular books they publish, he says, publishers can leverage their relationships with readers to build a brand image, or even to ferry readers to other, less-well-known books that they might enjoy too. And by giving fans fun and useful activities, publishers can cement the relationship with them.
“We have apps for coupons, sweepstakes, quizzes, annotations contests and much more,” Golan says. “We have dozens of ideas on how to engage readers on Facebook.”
Even more important, BookPulse provides a method for publishers to manage networks of fan pages, which enables them to leverage successful and popular books to help readers discover new books.
That is something BookPulse is dedicated to providing – as opposed to the Internet giants, who will be playing catch-up once they catch on to what Golan is doing.
“Creating a review app is no big deal,” Golan says, “but leveraging fan pages is something Amazon is not going to be getting involved in, since they have many other fish to fry and are not going to do something to enhance Facebook because of competition issues.”
Eventually, Golan believes publishers will be able to earn a measure of independence from big online bookstores.
“They may even begin selling books via Facebook eventually, but not right away,” he says. “Publishers can’t afford to start a war with Amazon, and Amazon can’t afford a publisher boycott.”
BookPulse can get along with anyone, Golan says, including Amazon (each fan page has a buy and compare button that includes Amazon as well).
“Everyone understands that the book business is changing, he says, “and BookPulse is at the leading edge of that change.”