Four years ago, I posted a short piece that argued "every association should have a book publishing strategy". I noted that associations "often know and can gain access to potential authors", and newer technologies (print-on-demand, eBooks) have made book publishing more accessible and less risky.
This week provides an example of how association book strategies might work. AARP, the United States' largest association, brought along RosettaBooks as a publishing partner to sell and distribute its eBooks. The move makes sense for AARP, whose members are reading content on a variety of different devices and in multiple formats, all of which RosettaBooks has learned to support.
At another not-for-profit, PBS MediaShift, Mark Glaser announced plans to test a couple of new "how to" eBook titles. The effort is a bit of a pilot that might grow to produce as many as 20 new titles a year. Again, MediaShift has access to potential authors, a focus on topics of interest to its audience and no fear of the available technologies.
Not surprisingly, a Publishing Technology (PT) study found that the number of "branded reader communities is set to explode". Although the folks at PT see growth in direct sales as a function of reduced library and bookstore revenues, I think it is driven more by a desire on the part of publishers to capture a greater share of digital revenues.
When it comes to long-term growth and sustainability, though, neither strategy really makes much sense. The goals here should align with those of the communities served: sourcing authors and linking content to audience are the core competencies. On those fronts, motivated association publishers come with distinct advantages.