Thursday, February 23, 2012

Oceanbooks: a New Zealand ebook publishing co-operative

A fellow New Zealander living in Mexico has just written, talking about having joined an electronic publishing co-operative in New Zealand, called Oceanbooks.

Writers join the co-operative by buying shares. This helps support the work of authors who are interested in publishing digitally and don’t want to have to self-publish or work with commercial publishers.

One of the directors of Oceanbooks is an IT specialist, which is handy for providing the on-the-ground expertise for establishing and maintaining the site and working up the necessary digital resources for doing the job. Bryan Winters describes himself as “an aging surfer” with a background in IT who lives by the beach. Suzanne Singleton, Director and Treasurer, is a former teacher and psychologist who now enjoys writing.

The co-operative offers a hard copy option as well, and find that with books selling for as low as $2.95 their authors can still earn more from their sales than in commercial publishing. Clearly, the co-operative is high on goodwill and low on other values that are writ large into commercial publishing culture. Besides working with epub format, Oceanbooks also offers a Kindle option.

It has always been a struggle for New Zealand writers to find publishers because the local market is small and conventional publishing options have always been limited. Even prize winning fiction writers have found “bottom lines” standing in the way of getting contracts for hard copy publishing in the past. After all, selling 2000 copies is no small feat in a tiny market. And publishers of fiction in particular are often looking at such figures as a bottom line for risk.

Oceanbooks is by no means unique, or even rare by now. Publishing ebooks often involves forms of co-operation between authors and press. But a shareholding co-operative is still a minority option, but one which is ideally suited to New Zealand circumstances and temperaments. And Oceanbooks appears to be a pioneer on the New Zealand scene.

We wish it all the very best.

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