For Publishers and Nonprofits Facing Cancellation, Publica.la Offers Services Free

In News by Porter Anderson

Exclusive: With so many of international publishing’s springtime conferences and fair programs shuttered by the COVID-19 crisis, Public.la offers the support of online capabilities free of charge.

Image: From the Publica.la home page

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

‘Globally Available Publication Repositories’
Many players in world publishing will remember that the serial entrepreneur Ron Martinez sold his company called Aer.io to Ingram Content Group in December 2015.

In a story at the time for The Bookseller, Martinez told us that his goal with Aer.io was “to make the power of the publishing supply chain, for both print and ebooks, available to anyone at the push of a button.”

That was translated into more specific terms as:

  • For standard Web operations: “Embed a storefront on your site. Share and sell in social streams. Add buy buttons to existing pages.”
  • For social media in-stream sales: “Share products on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and more. The cart and checkout is baked in.”
  • Even for brick-and-mortar stores: “Extend your product selection with an Aer.io storefront. We’ll pick, pack, and ship to your customer’s door.”

In an interesting response to the September 2017 onslaught of Hurricane Harvey, Martinez used the Aer.io platform to set up Books Against the Storm, a program that allowed a user to buy a book and donate 100 percent of the profit—Martinez says that comes to roughly 20 percent of purchase price—to three charities which at the time were struggling with storm recovery efforts: the Houston Humane Society, the Houston Food Bank, and the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund.

Ron Martinez

San Francisco-based, Martinez has used his development firm Invention Arts as his primary seat of operations for some 11 years and is also principal of Headcanon, which he describes as “a creative collective focused on the continuing reinvention of storytelling through voice and conversational user interfaces, interactivity and narrative simulation, and new commerce models.”

Now, Martinez is working with the company Publica.la, which was founded in 2016 by Rome’s Pablo Laurino, formerly a regional coach with Mozilla. Publica and Laurino are familiar to Publishing Perspectives readers and attendees of Frankfurter Buchmesse’s 2018 The Markets conference—Laurino joined us in that conference on a panel about revenue trends in international publishing.

Pablo Laurino

Publica is meant as an on-ramp and facilitator to smaller publishing entities looking for traction in digital commerce. In talking about his creation of Publica, Laurino has told us that he set out, originally, to help a consultancy client, an independent publisher, start monetizing a digital audience.

“But even though I found different sales channels,” he told us at the time, “I realized there were two huge problems: [The retail platforms] kept 40 to 60 percent of the sales revenue and, even worst, they kept the user and the data for themselves. And it was impossible for us to give that up.

“That’s why I decided to build a smaller and rudimentary version of what later became Publica.la.”

Obviously, an effort to make it possible for content publishers to own and control their own digital sales environments is a concept close to Martinez’s Invention Artistry.

So it is that this afternoon (March 13), Martinez has sent a note to a private publishing industry email list in which he announces, “I’m heading up US strategy and business development for Publica, which makes it easy to preview, share, and sell publications across the widest range of formats, including audiobooks, with completely configurable access models.”

And what gives the move a welcome timeliness is that Martinez and Laurino have decided that one thing they can offer is a way for book publishers and nonprofits to deal with the cancellations and postponements of events they’re being forced to make by the coronavirus outbreak.  The applicable content of a symposium, for example, can be entered into Publica’s online library, and the system’s reader and media player can be deployed to render and display that content.

‘The Free Flow of Information, Knowledge, and Culture’

An Image of the Publica.la online library

Publica.la is announcing that it will make these services available free to event organizers who need a place to capture and make available a kind of virtual edition of the content of an event scuttled or rescheduled by the wrenching disruptions of the viral onslaught.

“Globally available publication repositories for the widest range of media types–aligned with our mission to enable the free flow of information, knowledge, and culture worldwide.”Ron Martinez, Publica.la

As we’re covering in our now-daily virus-impacted events listings, events from the biggest to the smallest in the international book business are being upended by travel restrictions, limitations on crowd sizes, and the sheer danger of coming together physically for events when a deadly contagion, as yet not fully understood by medical science, is testing the limits of public health regimes in many parts of the world.

“Our aim,” Martinez says in an introduction of the offer he has posted today on Medium, “is to support the move to online conferences, with globally available publication repositories for the widest range of media types–aligned with our mission to enable the free flow of information, knowledge, and culture worldwide.”

Eligible entities interested in utilizing free of charge what Publica.la is offering are, in Martinez’s and Laurino’s description:

  • “Book publishers hit hard by book fair cancellations, who want to [showcase] their catalogs and new releases in front of retailers and readers
  • “Nonprofit organizations whose events are vitally important both to their constituents and to the community-at-large”

We’re watching such enormous nonprofits as the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan post what now seems the inevitable coronavirus-closure notice on its site—as has the Metropolitan Museum of Art and just about every cultural institution on which so many of us depend for the shared intelligence of our era.  You can easily imagine how an online service like Publica, designed to house and deliver programming for entities far less capable than MoMA and the Met of their own sophisticated activity online, could benefit from this kind of support–and for what may be a protracted “dark period” of the virus’ enforced interregnum.

In the posting at Medium, you’ll find the information you need to reach Martinez and Laurino’s Publica program. There’s a form offered for the purpose on Publica’s site, and Martinez is also suggesting that those interested use his Twitter handle at @ronmartinez .

Because each case will of course be quite distinctive, the team will then work with the interested publisher or nonprofit on what’s needed.

In brief, as the offer is putting it, “You’ll be able to upload and share complete publications or samples of books, catalogues, presentations, white papers, research and audio in ePub, EPUB3, or PDF format, and for audio in MP3 format with optional chapter setup.”

The program is offering support for online gatherings, the use of Publica’s Web-based reader, which includes offline reading, annotations, text-to-speech capabilities, sharing, and in-publication translation into many languages—that translation factor, of course, being quite crucial for many of the international industry’s needs.

We’ll step out of the way here and let those interested explore what’s available, leaving you with access to this demonstration storefront.

And we’ll just point out that this is—much like the work that Rakuten Kobo and Gruppo Mondadori has done to reach right into the heart of the Italian struggle with an offer of free literature to citizens isolated in lockdown—exactly the type of effort we’re talking about in the editorial that opens our new Spring Magazine: a response to an extraordinary worldwide emergency from publishing players who are thinking of what they may have to offer, a way to help.


More from Publishing Perspectives the coronavirus outbreak is here

Download your free copy of our Spring Magazine here

In our Spring 2020 Magazine, Publishing Perspectives has interviewed publishers, industry experts, entrepreneurs, and authors to present a look at the book business for the coming year. Inside this issue of Publishing Perspectives Magazine, you’ll find articles and resources including:

  • Publishing and the coronavirus
  • Richard Charkin’s view of key industry challenges
  • China’s growing comic book market
  • Brussels Book Fair debuts its rights center
  • Eksmo CEO Evgeny Kapyev on Russia’s book market
  • Matchmaking for publishers and producers in Latin America
  • Book market data
  • A world tour of copyright developments
  • Translation sales resulting from Norway’s Frankfurter Buchmesse guest of honor program
  • An AI startup creating interactive stories
  • An interview with author Andrew Keen

Download ‘Publishing in Times of Crisis’ free of charge here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's 2019 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for trade and indie authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald.