By Emily Williams
Libranda – It’s Official!
The official unveiling of Libranda, the digital distributor set up by Spain’s leading publishers, took place yesterday in Madrid. Most of the information presented confirmed reports leaked last month (and covered by us here), but the press conference today did fill in a number of details:
- Libranda launches in beta on July 15th with 2,000 titles from 10 of the participating publishers, sold through up to 8 online stores. The full launch (with another press conference) will come on September 15th, with titles from all 15 of the publishers currently signed up to use the platform, offered through 21 online stores.
- The small number of titles at launch is due in part to a bottleneck in digitization — publishers are scanning books but also adding Onix 3.0 metadata and in some cases may insert enriched content, according to Planeta CEO Jésus Badenes (who added “And who wants to scan books in August?”). Publishers have also had a harder time than expected negotiating rights, despite an earlier umbrella agreement reached last year with the Association of Spanish Literary Agencies (ADAL). (Unofficially, one RHM editor noted they were getting ebook rights to only 50% of the titles they requested, and pointed to the “two superagents” Wylie and Balcells — neither of which were party to the earlier agreement — as creating the biggest roadblocks.)
- All decisions about release timing and pricing, as well as negotiations with retailers on terms and discounting, are left up to individual publishers. At the press conference, Random House Mondadori, Roca Editorial, and Wolters Kluwer all said they plan on simultaneous release of paper and e-book formats of front list titles going forward, while Planeta’s Badenes implied they would decide on a title by title basis. The average e-book from Libranda will cost 20-30% below the print book price (about 6 euros for paperbacks and 11-14 euros for hardcovers).
- The 2,000 e-books available at launch will include titles from bestselling authors Jose Saramago, Carlos Ruiz Zafón, Stieg Larsson, Ken Follett, John Boyne, Ildefonso Falcones, and Arturo Pérez-Reverte. Libranda hopes to grow the number of titles to 8-10,000 by year’s end.
- Libranda will start with a download model, selling ePub files protected with Adobe ACS4 DRM that allows the reader to download any e-book purchased on up to 12 devices: 6 desktop and 6 mobile. Individual publishers can put a lower limit on the number downloads if they choose. All files will reside in Libranda’s digital warehouse and will be sold exclusively through their online retail partners (the 21 original points of sale include big box stores, independent booksellers, and digital-only e-book sites like Leqtor, Leer-e and Grammata).
- In a future second phase the platform plans to negotiate agreements to offer their e-books through tech giants Apple, Amazon and Google (though publishers will have to kick in an extra 2% for this service), and will also contemplate different models including subscription, streaming and lending.
- Also in the cards for the immediate future is expansion of the platform into the rest of the Spanish-speaking world, planned for early 2011. Libranda is negotiating with publishers in Latin America and hopes to work with local online retailers and booksellers (some of which have a more mature market and established customer base than their counterparts in Spain).
- The VAT is stuck at 18% for any book without a physical component, though the Spanish government has promised the publishers it will fight in Brussels to convince EU regulators to reduce the rate for e-books to the same preferential 4% enjoyed in Spain by paper books.
- Libranda will offer marketing tools like widgets and samples, though it’s up to publishers whether or how they will use these. The platform will also create white pages for booksellers who don’t have their own retail website set up.
- Libranda’s new website — http://www.libranda.com — will allow readers to search for available titles but to purchase e-books they will have to go to one of the participating online stores. Publishers using the platform will be able to use the website to manage their catalog of titles, upload new books, and access sales figures.
- Libranda’s investors have collectively contributed 2 million euros to set up the platform and request exclusive digital distribution rights from all participating publishers, though with some flexibility. Planeta’s Badenes admitted that the platform expects to lose money in the beginning and likely won’t turn a profit for the first five years. Libranda’s president, Arantza Larrauri, said their projections show the Spanish e-book market growing slowly from around 1% this year and next year, to 5% in 4 years.
READ: more about the launch in El País (in Spanish)
WATCH: Spain’s RTVE report on Libranda from the Feria del Libro (also in Spanish)