Friday, May 21, 2010

Checking Back on LibreDigital

I've been blogging for nearly five years now. One of the unexpected side benefits of posting for so long is that this blog has become a repository of information. I frequently use the search feature at the top of this page to find data on a company or subject.

I took advantage of that function yesterday to check on what I'd written about a company called LibreDigital. In a moment, I'll tell you what triggered my interest. However, first, a trip down memory lane. I've pulled excerpts from previous blogs that mentioned LibreDigital:

August 24, 2006: [From Publishers Weekly (PW)]: "The developer of the technology behind HarperCollins' newly launched Browse-Inside is now offering the service broadly to all book publishers."

The company, LibreDigital announced a service called the LibreDigital Warehouse "that allows publishers to offer their catalogs and titles to online consumers for browsing while maintaining control over the display and access to content."

Does this sound like a company poised to take advantage of publishers' mistrust of Google's book scanning program? PW thought so, and Craig Miller, the general manager of LibreDigital, freely admitted it. "We saw the discussion going on between Google and publishers." Miller implied that his company will give publishers greater control and better quality than Google.

January 13, 2007: Today's post comes from this morning's Wall Street Journal (WSJ):
Eager to tap into what it thinks will be a growing market for the digitization of books, News Corp.'s HarperCollins Publishers has bought an equity stake in a company that digitizes, electronically warehouses and distributes books via the Web.

HarperCollins has also decided to license its internally developed digital technology for use by rival publishers, giving HarperCollins the ability to influence the digital revolution sweeping the book industry.
The developer of the technology behind Browse-Inside, Libre Digital, also offered the service to all book publishers." Now HarperCollins has announced it purchased "an equity stake in NewsStand, Inc., a closely held Web concern whose businesses include LibreDigital" (WSJ).

Publishers Weekly also addressed this story in their Friday edition:
Through the alliance, HarperCollins and LibreDigital will offer publishers end-to-end digital services in discrete, modular segments, including digital typesetting, production, digital warehousing, Internet distribution and online marketing. Publishers can select a combination of HarperCollins proprietary electronic typesetting and digital workflow tools with LibreDigital's proprietary digitization, digital warehousing, and Internet display and distribution technologies.
May 13, 2007: Yesterday, I reported on [a] conference ... held in New York this week to discuss emerging digital technologies ... "Making Information Pay," which was sponsored by the Book Industry Study Group (BISG). The BISG introduction to Mike Shatzkin's comments said:
In recent months, about a dozen companies have moved to become the content distributors in a digital world ... These companies are becoming known as DADs -- Digital Asset Distributors -- and understanding their services will be essential not only for exploiting new economic models like ebooks or page pay-per-view, but also for facilitating online marketing of physical books.
Shatzkin is saying that publishers online will need Internet distributors in exactly the same way they now use distributors when publishing traditional books.

According to Publishers Lunch (PL), Shatzkin has identified ten or twelve DADs, including Accenture, Bibliovault, CodeMantra, CPI, Donnelly, Harper/Libre Digital, the Bookstore (Holtzbrinck/Macmillan), Ingram Digital, Random House and Value Chain International (Gardners).

May 16, 2008: Regular readers of this blog know that one of my heroes is Mike Shatzkin. Mike is the CEO and founder of Idea Logical, a consulting company. He is a frequently sought speaker, especially on the impact of digitization. Shatzkin says:
In the 20th century, successful consumer media enterprises almost always shared two characteristics: they were horizontal in their content coverage and format-specific. In the US, that means companies like Random House, CBS, and The New York Times. They all embraced a very wide span of subject interest, but very seldom strayed from books, broadcast, or newspapers, respectively.

But in the 21st century, the net is flipping this on us. The net tends to self-organize us by subject niche, so the eyeballs and human bandwidth are linked to the niches, which are vertical, not horizontal. And because web interaction is about file exchanges, format specificity is meaningless . . . So we’d expect the successful 21st century consumer media entity will be vertical in subject interest and format-agnostic.
He also refers to DADs or Digital Asset Distributors--distributors of digital content in the same way that Ingram is a distributor of physical books. In this speech, Shatzkin says "it looks like Ingram Digital and LibreDigital are the market leaders on our side of the Atlantic" in digital asset distribution.

Okay, Maya back in real time. Fast forward to Wednesday and an article in the Austin Statesman:
Austin-based LibreDigital said Wednesday that it has raised $8.1 million to accelerate its electronic book publishing services ...

"This year, sales of e-books are expected to double to more than $700 million in the U.S. alone, and this funding will let us accelerate the delivery of e-books and expand our technology," [Russell]Reeder [LibreDigital's CEO] said.
Reeder says that the company currently has 125 employees and the new influx of cash will permit them to buy more engineers plus sales and marketing staff.

The article points out that LibreDigital supplies content for the iPad and for Sony's digital reader and is working with at least three of the Big Six publishers. The company is competing with Ingram's digital division.

It's also interesting to look at the company's Board of Directors, who are a pretty high-powered group for such a small company. A number of them certainly represent the interests of investors in the company:

Russell P. Reeder
President and CEO of LibreDigital, Inc.

Martin Neath
Chairman and General Partner of Adams Capital Management

David L. Pesikoff
President of Triangle Peak Partners

Scott Heekin-Canedy
President of The New York Times Company

Jeremy Halbreich
CEO of Sun Times Media Group

Brian Napack
President of Macmillan

Keep an eye on LibreDigital.

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