Persuading publishers to make their eBooks available to read over the Web is probably quite a big ask. Persuading them to sell those eBooks on a ‘pay-as-you-go’ basis, enabling readers to purchase specific pages or chapters of a book only — well, that’s just crazy talk. Not so crazy, it seems, that one UK startup is taking a stab: ValoBox launches its on-demand browser-based eBook service today, with publishers O’Reilly Media, Profile Books, Guardian Books, Constable & Robinson, and Snowbooks, signed on at debut.
Founded by Anna Lewis and Oliver Brooks, who are also the team behind the online book publishing service, CompletelyNovel.com, ValoBox’s pay-as-you-go model sets out to solve the problem of “how to get hold of expert content when you’re short on time and money”.
It does this by making available the eBook content it sells via a standard web browser (or in the cloud), which in turn means that ValoBox is able to offer a completely different purchasing and consumption model. Users can search the full text of a book, then buy and read only the parts they want, all from within ValoBox’s online reader, which can be accessed at anytime via any supporting web browser. That means no downloads, or the upfront cost of the full eBook. Cleverly, if a user does go on to buy the whole book on ValoBox, it shouldn’t work out more expensive, as whatever they’ve already spent will be discounted from the total purchase price.
Social media sharing is built-in to encourage users to share their purchases, and there is an embeddable widget for blogs etc., too. As a further incentive, ValoBox offers a 25% affiliate revenue share if others go on to make a purchase.
In terms of competitors, there are other companies who offer a way to consume eBooks through a web browser, though ValoBox thinks it is pretty unique with its pay-as-you-go model.
Otherwise, there’s the likes of Safari Books and 24Symbols, which offer an eBook subscription service, which as Lewis tells me, is “great for heavy book buyers, but ValoBox works for people who want to quickly access some content, and for whom a long-term commitment doesn’t make sense”.
That may particularly apply to educational and similar non-fiction content — hence today’s starting lineup of publishers — and to that end, ValoBox says it’s also running private trials with a number of other major educational and trade publishers.