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Emily Gould And The Rise Of The Indie E-Bookseller

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Independent bricks-and-mortar bookstores are struggling, but indie e-bookstores may just be the next big thing. Author and former Gawker editor Emily Gould has launched Emily Books. She and “co-proprietress” Ruth Curry say it’s “a way to buy ebooks in a way that truly supports the independent bookselling culture that we love. One store currently sells a very large percentage of all ebooks, and that’s not cool.”

Emily Books is selling just one book so far: The $14.99 No More Nice Girls, a collection of cultural criticism essays by Ellen Willis, an activist and writer for the New Yorker and Village Voice who died in 2006. This is the first time No More Nice Girls has been available in e-book form, which led to my question: Is Emily Books also a publisher?

Gould and Curry worked with Willis’s estate to publish the e-book; the Wesleyan University Press edition of the physical book is out of print. “We did have to secure the rights, which in this case was not difficult, though it certainly has been in other cases,” Curry said. She and Gould are “dabbling in publishing by default when we make books that had previously been out of print or unavailable as e-books into e-books,” but they plan to sell a “mix of available and unavailable books…recent and older books, fiction and nonfiction, but mostly we hope to introduce our buyers and subscribers to books that are new to them.”

Emily Books will sell just one book a month, which gives Gould and Curry the luxury of only selling “books that have books that have affected us profoundly — nothing we feel lukewarm about, even. Books we 100 percent LOVE and could talk about forever.” Readers can buy the books individually or can purchase a subscription ($13.99 per month or $159.99 per year), which, according to the website, includes “access to exclusive events and priceless feelings of satisfaction, sophistication, and intellectual superiority.” Gould told me she was surprised by how many people signed up for the subscription on the first day the store was open. “We expected people to buy the book a la carte, see if they liked it, and wait to see what we did next,” she said. “Instead we got this big vote of confidence, which was really reassuring and inspiring.”

The books are available in EPUB and MOBI (for Kindle) formats, and they are DRM-free because Gould and Curry believe that anti-piracy protection stops “casual sharing, which has always been a part of the book-buying experience.” “We are not saying that all content should be free or that you should share your Emily Books subscription with all your friends (in fact, please don’t do that),” says the site’s FAQ. “We are saying that, when you buy something, it belongs to you. Period. Also, DRM is super ridiculously expensive to implement. Like, so expensive Adobe (NSDQ: ADBE) will not even tell you on their website how much their Magic DRM Software costs.”

Next up, in addition to November’s title, are some real-life events, the first of which took place at WORD in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Gould and Curry haven’t yet decided what their online community will be like. “I’ve had mixed experience with commenting communities before, so I’m leery,” Gould said. “But I also recognize that this is something people want and need, and also that not everyone lives in New York. So we’re working to make that a part of the site as soon as we can.”

I love the idea of independent e-booksellers. Any others out there?

2 Responses to “Emily Gould And The Rise Of The Indie E-Bookseller”

  1. The speed of technological change is staggering and hard to keep up with but introducing a way to share books even if they are e-books is something I understand and greet with pleasure. DRM or Digital “Restrictions” Management is insidious. Thank you!

  2. There will be shortly! Mark Williams International Digital Publishing is currently publishing and distributing on the major platforms, but we launch our own e-store next month, with the option to buy our client titles in any format, DRM-free, and from anywhere in the world.

    We’re not expecting to give Amazon sleepless nights (in fact they will remain our biggest distributor) but we do intend to compete in all those parts of the world Amazon has declared off limits, or is demanding a $2 surcharge for delivery.

    We also have our Crossing The Pond initiative which involves us handling the UK and European sales of self-pubbed US authors doing well over there but making no inroads into the UK market. So far we’ve been able to get US authors significant chart positions on Amazon in a very short space of time.

    The next step is to set up our US arm and give successful UK indie authors a boost over there.

    With our new e-store next month we hope to reach the rest of the world.