BookRiff: A marketplace for curators

A startup looks to give curators an outlet while keeping content owners happy.


Ever want to compile your own cookbook, travel guide or textbook? Has your publisher edited out sections of your book you’d like to share with interested readers? Publishing startup BookRiff aims to solve these problems by creating new ways to access and compile content.

In the following interview, Rochelle Grayson, CEO of BookRiff, talks about how BookRiff works and how it can benefit publishers and consumers. She says her company is based on an open market concept, allowing publishers to sell the content they want at prices they set and consumers to buy and customize that content as they see fit.

BookRiff will be featured in the next TOC Sneak Peek webcast on August 25.

What is a “Riff”?


Rochelle Grayson: A Riff is a remix of chapters from published books, essays, articles, or even one’s own content. The concept behind BookRiff is to create an online platform that allows consumers and publishers to remix and to resell content, while ensuring that all original content owners and contributors get paid.

Who is the target audience for BookRiff?

Rochelle Grayson: BookRiff’s target audience is “domain experts” who can curate — and perhaps even create — content that is of interest to a specific reading audience. This could include things like cookbooks, travel guides, extended “authors editions,” and custom textbooks.

Can curators make their compilations (Riffs) available for purchase? If so, what’s the cut? And how is money divvied up to the content owners?

Rochelle Grayson: Absolutely — in fact, we encourage curators to post and to market their Riffs to their social networks, audiences, and so forth. We have built ways for them to easily share their Riffs through these social channels, and we are building widgets to allow curators to promote their Riffs through their own websites and blogs.

In terms of the business model, we follow a standard agency business model, where the content owners set the price of the content and we split the revenues with them 30/70 — 30% goes to BookRiff, 70% goes to the content owners. For curators, or Riffers, we also have a Riffer commission, which is set by the content owner — we recommend a minimum of 5%. This means that when a Riffer sells a Riff, he would receive 5% of that content piece’s price (or whatever % the content owner has agreed to pay). Assuming that every content owner in a Riff has agreed to 5%, the Riffer would receive 5% from the total sale price of the Riff, and BookRiff and the content owners would then split the remaining 95%, 30/70 as outlined above.

Can edits be made after a Riff is published?

Rochelle Grayson: Yes, once a Riff is published it can be “retired” and a new version with new edits can be uploaded to the system and sold. However, consumers who have purchased an earlier version will only have access to that earlier version. That said, the content owner can also sell the “edits” or “updates” separately to previous purchasers for an incremental price.

As a reader, how do I access a Riff?

Rochelle Grayson: During the purchase process, readers select the appropriate digital file for the ereader or application of their choice. Our files will be compatible with the Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Adobe Digital Edition, as well as other ereading systems that support Adobe DRM. If the content is not DRM’d, as decided by the content owner, the Riff will be a standard EPUB file and will work on any ereader system that supports the EPUB format.

As a reader, can I share Riffs I purchase with other people?

Rochelle Grayson: At this time, we do not offer sharing for DRM’d Riffs. However, we are looking into ways of enabling this that work well for both content owners and readers. Non-DRM’d files, though, can be shared.

Can you share your launch schedule?

Rochelle Grayson: We will be launching at the end of September.

Expanding this a bit: Are we in a golden age for curators? And if so, how do you see curation evolving over the next five years?

Rochelle Grayson: It’s definitely a golden age for curators. Over the next five years, the amount of published information will increase exponentially. It will become more difficult for readers to assess and to evaluate the quality and the relevance of a growing database of content. BookRiff aims to enable curators to participate in both the editorial and marketing process and to provide a valuable service as a human filter.

We want to facilitate a new kind of curatorial publishing that will reward not only the content owners and authors, but also the tastemakers and marketers who can further promote the most relevant content to broader and more distributed audiences. Social ecommerce, social marketing, and sharing are becoming critical to the success of any content marketplace.

What do you think is more important, access or ownership?

Rochelle Grayson: Our model is based on access to the specific content you want. We believe an open marketplace that allows publishers to sell their content at prices they set and also allows consumers to purchase and customize that content is a critical piece to making access ubiquitous. If consumers have access to purchased content whenever and wherever they want it, it may change the definition and expectations associated with “ownership.”

This interview was edited and condensed.

Webcast: TOC Sneak Peek at BookRiff, LiquidText, and MagAppZine — Sneak Peeks are a TOC webcast series featuring a behind-the-scenes look at publishing start-ups and their products. Our next episode will feature presentations from BookRiff, LiquidText, and MagAppZine.

Join us on Thursday, August 25, 2011, at 10 am PT

Register for this free webcast


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