CHESHIRE, UK: User generated e-book sites are extremely popular in Asia, where widespread access to cheap broadband connections as well as cutting edge telephone and computer hardware have made them the preferred self-publishing platform for writers. The rest of the world is now picking up on the trend, with new sites launching seemingly every week.
Myebook.com is among the latest and its attracting an audience, albeit one that’s not exactly writing novels. Launched in November 2008, the free-to-use service has already attracted 25,000 registered users who have uploaded 12,500 titles, ranging from comic books and poetry, to wedding albums and corporate brochures.
What really differentiates myebook.com from other user-generated e-book platforms, suggests spokesperson Sy Whitehall, is myebook.com’s flash-based interface, which gives the site the ability to handle multimedia content without the need for complicated HTML codes. “We wanted to be able to let anyone produce book content online without having to understand the technical side,” said Whitehall. “And we wanted to enable our users to generate their own e-books that didn’t just incorporate text, but also video, audio, animation, links in and out, in their e-books.”
To create an e-book you upload files to myebook.com and then use the site’s drag-and-drop interface to create the book. Users are divided into two groups: “general” users, who tend to be members of the public presenting personal content, and “partners,” who use the platform for professional purposes. Users dictate whether or not an e-book is viewable by anyone in the public or kept private – at the moment, there are 2,500 public books and 10,000 private titles. The site has also built in social networking tools which allow an author to invite readers to comment on the text, share it with others and otherwise build a community around the books.
While the majority of books uploaded so far have been from the UK and United States, the site has also attracted numerous users in South America. “We’re biggest in Peru, Columbia and Argentina,” says Whitehall, success he attributes to South American bloggers who have boosted the site. After English, Spanish is by far the most popular title, with 360 Spanish-language titles viewable by the public, compared with just eight in French, four in German and five in Chinese.
Whitehall also reports that myebook.com is especially popular with university professors, who are using the site to produce online reading packets for their classes, though these are not viewable by the public.
Corporations too are experimenting with the site, primarily testing it as a promotional tool. Warner Music has produced short press kits for their artists Ashley Tisdale and The Enemy, Universal Movies has an e-book promo for their film The Unborn, and Capcom has launched a tie-in for their Street Fighter IV video game. Among the most popular books on the site are those by UK DJ Eddie Halliwell, who has publishing a fanzine, and the graphic novel Garth by the artist Huw-J, featuring a character made popular by the long running comic strip in the Daily Mirror newspaper. Both Halliwell’s and Huw-J’s titles have had more than 250,000 readers.
“What you see now is one in fourteen stages of planned development,” says Whitehall. “Soon we’ll add an ecommerce component which will allow users to limit the number of pages that may be viewed by a user and also offer a print-on-demand services for those who want to purchase hard copies.” The company plans to generate revenue through advertising in the books, which will be split 50/50 with the authors, and by eventually charging fees.
At the moment, for most, myebook.com will likely serve as one component of an overall publishing strategy, rather than as a standalone product itself.
“I see myebook as something that sits very nicely alongside any kind of publishing,” says Whitehall. “It was a very nice addition to anyone’s marketing strategy. You can link from your e-book on our site to your distributor, book shop, e-commerce system or literary agent to hopefully complete the sale or deal.”
CONTACT: Sy Whitehall directly
VISIT: Myebook on Facebook