Friday, May 2, 2008

Smashwords to Launch Public Beta on Tuesday May 6

After several years of blood, sweat and cheers, Smashwords is finally launching its public beta this coming Tuesday May 6.

The idea behind Smashwords is simple: We help authors make their digitally published works discoverable by a worldwide audience.

The Smashwords Mission

I'm really excited about the opportunity digital books present to the world's readers and authors. For centuries, books have remained the gold standard for information dissemination, knowledge sharing and storytelling. Books have shaped the course of mankind.

I love paper books, and I hope they never go away, but print publishing has important economic limitations that limit opportunities for authors to reach their audience. Book printing and publishing is expensive, so book publishers are unable to publish all written works, and even if they could publish all written works, the vast majority of literate people in the world would not be able to find them or afford them.

Paper books are simply too expensive when you consider that 86% of the world's population earns a per capita annual income of less than $10,000 versus a $30,000-$50,000 per capita income level typical in developed countries. Or, consider that over one billion of the world's roughly 6.5 billion inhabitants subsist on less than $1 a day. Paper books are simply too expensive for most of the world.

By moving books into the digital realm, we can start to change the economics of book publishing, while at the same time making the work of great independent authors available to people of all economic backgrounds.

At Smashwords, we want to make publishing more enriching to both authors and publishers alike. Smashwords returns 85% of net proceeds from the sale of each book back to the author or publisher. This means that an author who might otherwise earn a per unit royalty of 40 cents by publishing a $7.95 mass market paperback can make 3.5 times as much per unit by selling the digital book on Smashwords for $2.00 (a 75% lower cost).

Smashwords economics creates a virtuous cycle: By pricing books low, Smashwords authors will expand the potential audience for their books while at the same time increasing their per-unit margins, sales volume and overall profits.

Are most Smashwords authors going to get rich? Definitely not. Although digital book sales today represent a tiny fraction of overall book sales, ebooks are one of the fastest growing segments of the book publishing industry.

Authors will get out of Smashwords what they put into it. Smashwords provides authors a free digital publishing platform and associated book marketing tools that help them build an audience and achieve their dreams. Authors simply upload their manuscript in Microsoft Word, assign sampling privileges and pricing, and we automatically convert it into multiple DRM-free formats.

We expect many authors to price their books at ZERO, and we welcome this. We recognize that most authors write because they have a story to tell, information to share or ideas to communicate, and these noble desires often trump the motive for financial gain.

I invite you to join our campaign to change the way books are published, marketed, discovered and sold.

Best wishes,

Mark Coker
Founder and CEO
Smashwords, Inc.

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