Technically, Bookish doesn’t have any revenue stream yet. The joint venture of Hachette Book Group, Penguin Group (USA), and Simon & Schuster (NYSE: CBS) went public Friday after more than a year in stealth but the launch is planned for summer. CEO Paulo Lemgruber and I chatted via e-mail about the startup, which has been hiding in plain sight under the anagram Obikosh. Here’s a little more background about the latest effort in an increasingly crowded space to create a new digital destination for print and e-book sales.
paidContent: How long has Bookish been in the works?
I’ve been on board for almost a year and the publishers have been working on this initiative for quite a while.
Is this a joint venture? Do the founding publishers own it jointly? Are there other investors?
The three founding publishers – Hachette, Penguin and Simon & Schuster own it jointly – so yes, it’s a joint venture. However, we’ve structured Bookish to be completely independent and we have a great start up culture with an entrepreneurial and bookish team. And I made sure to locate the company in the middle of silicon alley because technology innovation is at the core of our company. There are no other investors.
Would you take other publishers as owners/investors?
We’re looking at all possibilities. We’re excited to work with the entire publishing community. It is important to note that we are most definitely going to include titles from publishers across the board.
What have you learned from the Bookish Reading Group (on the Starbucks (NSDQ: SBUX) Digital Network)?
The main goal was to try and engage with readers and build an initial audience for Bookish.
How did people respond? Are they willing to read whole books that way? Is this a model that can work outside Starbucks?
Unfortunately, Starbucks has not heavily promoted the SDN as we expected. However, we have had a following that will go to their local book store every week to read the next books made available through the Bookish Reading Club. We are looking at different options about how books can be made available to readers; this requires broader discussions with the publishers.
Why partner with AOL?
We felt we were aligned with the new leadership team because of their commitment to premium content and their ground-breaking advertising strategy. Arianna Huffington is a well-known author and it was important to join forces with someone who really understands the book space.
So this is something that came up after the merger? Or was it already in the works?
It all came together after the merger.
How would you describe the business model? And if you had to split the way you expect to make money, how would you do it? Advertising, book sales, etc?
A lot of that depends on the reaction of our audience at launch, but we’re thrilled to have a dual revenue stream.
What do you see for mobile, tablets?
We want to provide a great experience for readers on as many devices as possible. We are optimizing for the web, mobile and tablets.
What kind of need do you think Bookish fills?
I feel that in the book space there is that eternal question what to read next? Bookish will try to answer that question for you, either through editorial or our recommendation engine, we will be always surfacing books you may like.