Alternative Business Model: Publishing

The question: is it repeatable? Net Publishing Made Profitable

After 13 years of experimenting, veteran Net publisher Adam Engst has finally stumbled on a good business model — fast-turnaround e-books.

Since 1990, Engst has been publishing TidBits, a weekly Mac-oriented newsletter that is the second-longest-running publication on the Internet (the oldest is Irish Emigrant, Engst said).

[…] Since last fall, Engst has published a series of rapidly produced e-books using a system he calls “extreme publishing.”

[…] “Publishing is broken,” he said. “Sales are low, there’s no money, and deadlines and delays are a headache. You have three months to sell a book and then it’s obsolete. Last year, I realized all the pieces were there finally for publishing e-books.”

Engst cited several factors. Most important, he said, is offering a tangible product like a PDF file, which — though digital — is more concrete than Web subscriptions. Many other electronic publishers, especially magazines, lean toward subscriptions.

[…] None of the books has any kind of copy protection, though Adobe’s PDF format contains various digital-rights management mechanisms. “It’s not worth doing it all, because it just causes problems,” Engst said.

He believes in the honesty of his customers.

[…] Engst asks his customers to treat the books as they would physical books: Feel free to share with a couple of friends, but don’t post them on the Net. Engst has been aware of no abuse, and none of the books has shown up on file-sharing networks.