Spanish start-up interview: SeeBook
SeeBook is a new publishing start-up that enables e-books to be sold in brick-and-mortar stores, given away as gifts or signed by the author. Rosa Sala co-founded the company after years of experiencing challenges within the publishing industry.
Maria: What is SeeBook? Where did the idea come from, and what exactly do you offer?
Rosa: In a nutshell: SeeBooks are physical cards which allow you to download ebooks in multiple formats. They are sold in bookshops.
The idea came from my experience as an author, when after publishing a digital book I learned how difficult it was to distribute content digitally, compared to publishing in print. I realized that I had nothing to physically give away, dedicate, sign or sell at launches. So I came to the conclusion that it would be great to make digital content more tangible – not only in the literary world, but also for music and film. I believe that any artist should be able distribute their own digital content.
Maria: What were the first steps you took, and what initial successes have you seen? What do authors, booksellers, editors and readers think of Seebook?
Rosa: Authors are very interested in SeeBook. For indie authors, we offer them the possibility to show their work and find new readers in libraries, through our “Seebook Difusión” program – we also offer bookshop distribution.
The reaction from publishers has been varied: some publishing houses love the idea, have been really supportive and have adopted the tool. Others, as we suspected, are skeptical and reluctant to invest in an initiative like ours. All in all, we’re very proud of the list we’ve put together so far – you can see it on our Website.
We are very pleased that we now distribute to 145 bookshops all over Spain. For booksellers, SeeBook has enabled them to take part in the digital publishing phenomena, with reasonable margins and without having to change what they already know.
According to the results of a recent reader survey, we can assess that readers are happy with the service. SeeBook allows them to have a physical version of any ebooks they have bought. They are then able to give the ebook as a gift to friends who only read in digital format, whilst giving something tangible to hold. The multiformat cards (PDF, ePub or Mobi) work on any e-reader and allow for unlimited downloads. Finally, we use watermarking, which is a light form of DRM.
Maria: What’s the most surprising thing that’s happened to you since you launched SeeBook?
Rosa: On a personal level, I never thought that I would become so absorbed and obsessed with launching a start-up. However, it’s a great feeling to be getting the ball rolling, getting into new conversations and contributing to a better way of publishing digitally. One particular highlight that stands out, was when a librarian Tweeted about a 90-year-old who had installed her first ebook using Seebook. !
Maria: What’s coming next for SeeBook?
Rosa: We’re thrilled with our recent deals with the Catalan Libraries’ Network, and our new distribution agreement in Argentina. Since launching this Christmas, SeeBook has become a live product which is actively being used. We have already distributed 6.000 Seebooks into bookshops all over the country, but still need to reach more readers in Spain to build on this. We’d love it if readers picked us, instead of some of the bigger industry players, as the most attractive and sustainable channel for ebooks. We would also like to spread the word about how we are helping the bookselling industry, who have been so badly affected by the recession and digital culture. This year we also hope to enter new European markets.
Maria: Where do you see yourselves in 2 years’ time, and in 5 years’ time?
Rosa: In 2 years’ time I hope that SeeBook will be a well-known brand and concept, used by readers all over Spain. As for 5 years – no one ever knows where a technology start-up will be in 5 years! But to be optimistic, I’d love to see SeeBook in bookshops all over Europe and Latin America too.