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GigaOM’s Michael Wolf Launches eBook Imprint

Michael Wolf, VP of Research and a blogger at GigaOM, is getting into the eBook business. This week, Wolf has launched a new imprint called Bstsllr.com, a collection of mystery titles from authors including Terrill Lee Lankford, David Corbett and Naomi Hirihara. eBookNewser caught up with Wolf to discuss why he is getting into digital books.
EBN: Why are you launching an eBook imprint?
MW: The technology watcher in me will tell you that over the past fifteen years, I have not seen a market changing at the velocity as we’re witnessing in the publishing industry today. One thing I’ve learned is that large, disruptive market shifts. While uncomfortable for the incumbents, it creates incredible opportunity for others, particularly those who do not have expensive technology or infrastructure that forces them to hold onto legacy business models. The disruption in publishing is centered around destruction of the legacy distribution models.  Amazon, Nook, Smashwords, these companies are completely democratizing distribution, putting someone like myself, who may have a little Internet marketing savvy, on nearly even footing, at least in electronic format, with publishers, who are largely leaving the marketing up to the authors today anyway.
That said, I’m also a huge mystery fan.  If you told me five years ago I could act as publisher for some of my favorite mystery writers, to publish a book with an introduction by arguably Ireland’s best mystery writer (Ken Bruen), I would said your crazy. eBooks change that, so why wouldn’t I jump at that chance?
EBN: How has tech blogging prepared you for this business?
MS: I wear two hats at GigaOM.  One is a business role, where I helped create and run a technology research business where we are trying to disrupt the existing market research business.  It’s a business that hasn’t changed for 30 years, and we thought that with a smart approach, using democratizing technologies that gives a platform to smart people like our analysts, we could grow a business.  We’ve been proven right and it’s been very successful. My other role is as a content creator, whether it’s as an analyst for our research division or blogging for GigaOM. In this role, I’m always trying to understand how new technologies are going to create opportunities. I’ve written quite a bit the last year or two about how things like the Kindle and iPad were going to make the transition to eReading happen much faster than many anticipated. I’ve also watched how quickly writers woke up to the fact the way they sold books was going to be radically different just a year or two down the road. It may be slightly discomforting to them, but most professional writers are entrepreneurial. I thought maybe some of these entrepreneurial writers would be open to a new publisher and I was right. Both of these roles helped me see that both businesses (market research and book publishing) were going to change radically in the coming years due to largely the same forces.
EBN: What formats are you publishing in and through which stores?
MS: I’m pretty platform and storefront agnostic. That said I’ll start with the largest ones first.  Amazon will be first, and then Barnes & Noble. I’m a fan of Mark Coker and Smashwords, so we’ll also work with them.
EBN: How much are you selling your eBooks for and why?
MS: There’s a large psychological aspect to pricing that most traditional publishers don’t seem to realize, nor don’t want to recognize. Putting a book at a sub $5 price, you move quickly into impulse buy territory.  That’s where I’ll price my books.  I believe strongly in price elasticity of eBooks, so lower is generally better, though I do believe you need to be smart and avoid a race to the bottom and pricing everything at 99 cents.
EBN: What tools are you using to make these eBooks?
MS: Word, Calibre, MobiPocket Creator, and any other tool that is needed for the job.
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