Going right to the readers of the cookbooks they publish, Random House is offering an online “Ask the Expert” section. Readers can ask popular cookbook editors questions, or browse through a list of questions that have already been answered.
The publisher hopes the Q&A section will help increase sales volume as well as strengthen brand recognition with online book buyers.
“Historically, publishers have been dependent on retailers to communicate with consumers. The Internet allows publishers to bridge that gap,” said Terrance Cheng, director of corporate website marketing for Random House.
The software, created by Broad Daylight, allows a company to be “self-service enabled,” while saving on expensive call centers and help desks.
And since the Q&A is immediately published to the company’s website, other customers can benefit as well. It used to take a hundred phone calls to answer a hundred identical questions about oven time for the turkey; now all frantic cooks have to do is call up the site.
Broad Daylight will adapt its software to a number of areas, including business books, reading groups and the academic market.
“Down the line this technology could also be used to help authors communicate directly with their readers, thus developing community and fan-base efficiently,” Cheng said.
What’s in an author’s name.com?: The Authors Guild has filed a compliant on behalf of nine authors – including R. L. Stine, Joanna Lindsey, Elizabeth Strout, Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Billie Letts – to get back their dot-com names from the British firm, Old Barn Studios.
Adam Cohen, an intellectual property attorney with the New York City firm Kane Kessler, P.C., makes the case that an author has common law trademark rights in his or her name by virtue of international reputation. And that Old Barn Studios does not have proprietary rights to those names.
“Each of these authors’ names has come to be recognized by the relevant public as indicating a source of the literary and other works of the authors,” said Cohen. Even without a registered trademark, he explained, these names have acquired distinctiveness and function as common law trademarks.
Since Old Barn, Cohen said, has no proprietary interest in the domain names and registered them in “bad faith” as defined by ICANN, the company must transfer those domain names back to their rightful owners.
“For authors, whose names and reputations are their most valued stock-in-trade, bringing this proceeding was absolutely necessary,” said Letty Cottin Pogrebin, president of the Authors Guild.
According to the Guild, many administrative panels that have resolved claims brought pursuant to the ICANN policy have ruled that an individuals can have common law trademark rights in their names even without having registered the trademark.
In one such case, author Jeanette Winterson won her domain name back from British scholar Mark Hogarth. Last year, Hogarth registered the dot-com, dot-org and dot-net names of 130 well-known authors – including nine of the plaintiffs in this Guild suit – and then allegedly attempted to sell them to the authors for a portion of their royalty earnings.
According to the Guild, Hogarth has now transferred all of the dot-com authors’ domain names to Old Barn Studios. But he still owns the dot-org and dot-net names.
And what’s in a name change?: Reflecting a change in what it perceives as the market’s needs, SoftLock.com has renamed itself Digital Goods. It has partnered with DRM giant, Reciprocal, and is offering up a suite of interactive marketing services.
These tools include an affiliate retailer network with thousands of online partners, a customized search engine registration capability that leverages major search portals and the ability to embed offers for specific relevant content in news feeds and other website content.
For example, you might be reading this article and receive, in real time, an offer to purchase specific publishing analysis reports from content provider Dun & Bradstreet.
“Our goal is to help publishers unleash the value of their content by providing the next-generation tools and services needed to deliver rights-protected multimedia content to a maximum audience of consumers,” said Scott Griffith, chairman and chief executive officer of Digital Goods.
Digital Goods is also promoting viral marketing through its Passalong technology – a patented system that turns friend-to-friend content sharing into a sales channel.
Recently one of the most intriguing examples of viral marketing bypassed digital management rights, offering an unencrypted e-book. Seth Godin offered the entire text of his book, Unleashing the IdeaVirus free online.
Over 250,000 people downloaded the book and passed it on to a total of at least 600,000. His idea was to spread the word by sending the book for free online in the hopes that people would want to buy the hardcover copy. It worked, leading to sales of almost 30,000 copies of the $40 hardcover version.
But whether viral marketing of e-books for the expressed purpose of selling e-books will work is another matter.
Godin doesn’t believe that charging for content on the Web will work. He sees the whole e-book phenomenom as a way to market something else, something other than the e-book itself.
“Digital content wants to be free and people just won’t pay for it, no matter how hard you get them to try,” Godin said.
Everyone’s an e-book publisher: Bookzone.com, one of the largest portals and website developers for independent publishers, has developed a payment, delivery and reporting component called the eBookZone EDGE ePublishing System. Basically, it allows any company to have a branded e-publishing business on its own site.
Mary Westheimer, president of Bookzone.com, is launching the service with several clients, including the Independent Publishers Group, Specialty Books -– which provides books to 58 online universities – and the Audio Publisher’s Association.
M.J. Rose (www.mjrose.com) has a new novel and a book about e-publishing comingout this winter.