By Barbara Geier
Based in Brighton in the UK, ValoBox is a browser-based ebook service helps readers find and read books on any device while enabling publishers to reach readers wherever they are on the web. Launched in 2012, the company works with publishers such as O’Reilly Media, Profile Books, Guardian Shorts, Constable & Robinson or Snowbooks who use the ValoBox API to embed and sell books on websites, blogs or social networks at the point of discovery. What’s more, ValoBox breaks content down into chunks and readers can buy single chapters and dip into whatever is of interest.
“This makes, of course, most sense for non-fiction. However, for fiction it can be a way into a book if someone doesn’t know the author yet,” explains Anna Lewis, who launched ValoBox together with Oliver Brooks. Registered users, currently about 10,000, see exactly how much they pay for the content chosen and payment works via a pay-as-you-read model with users adding credit to their accounts. ValoBox very much encourages readers to share what they purchase with in-built social media options. Furthermore, anyone who recommends a book and generates a sale gets 25% of the revenue. “If users take over marketing, publishers are actually happy for them to get a reward. Of the remaining 75%, we take 15% and 60% goes to the publishers with both percentages going up if the sale happened on our respective own sites,” explains Lewis the revenue share model.
In addition to streaming books on demand from web browsers, ValoBox recently launched an offline reading option whereby users can download ebooks and read their personalized epub file on other applications or software. “We’re currently working on more downloading options and want to roll out another offline reading service whereby the content is cached in the browser.” The flexibility of ValoBox opens up doors for the start-up when it comes to working with publishers: Since the API can be embedded anywhere, marketing, for example, can be customised depending on the type of book or different discount levels for different readerships could be applied.
One recent collaboration was with indie publisher Constable & Robinson with whom ValoBox launched a ‘Gift An eBook’ service for Christmas: buy an ebook and gift it to a friend. The service has now been extended to a number of Constable & Robinson mini sites. Although the Observer’s description of the initiative as one that could ‘threaten’ Amazon’s dominance of ebooks might be wishful thinking, it is, indeed, something that Amazon is not offering and could be a clever ingredient in the box of tools at the disposal of publishers who want to provide alternatives to Amazon’s hegemony.
“Publishers need to find new ways of reaching their audience and we see increasing interest working with us, also when it comes to using the data about reader behavior our browser-based model generates,” says Lewis. ValoBox believes that in the short- as well as the long-term distributed retail will be key for publishers and see their service as an opportunity to empower them not to have to rely on one dominating channel.