New ebook publisher from publishing veterans with novel ideas

John Oakes sez, "Article in New York Business describing OR Books, a new sort of publishing house being started up by two longtime indy publishers. We plan to take existing tech and apply it to old-fashioned publishing values–and to commit to massive marketing for our authors, and to do so within a progressive framework, releasing fiction and nonfiction."

Believing that e-books and print-on-demand technology have reached a tipping point with the public, Messrs. Oakes and Robinson will launch OR Books this fall as a Web-only house selling straight to consumers. The plan is to operate at a drastically reduced cost–blowing up a model whose inefficiencies have helped make this past year so painful for publishers large and small. The Association of American Publishers reports that revenues from adult hardcovers fell 16% through April, while revenues from adult trade paperbacks plunged 26%, compared with the same period a year ago.

Some specialty publishers have built businesses around e-books, but OR would be the first general-interest press to try the model. The partners are betting that the new-media opportunities that all book people are rushing to exploit will let a startup thrive even in a dismal retail environment.

"The whole system of stuffing as many books as you can into stores, whether or not buyers want them–it's broken," says Mr. Oakes, who co-founded and ran the left-leaning Four Walls Eight Windows for 17 years. The press disappeared in an indie shakeout in 2007. A stint as executive editor at Atlas & Co. ended last fall when the small publisher ran into financing problems.

John published my first short story collection, as well as books by Octavia Butler, Abbie Hoffman, Kathe Koja, Rudy Rucker and many other writers whom I adore and admire. This sounds like a great, exciting project!

Betting on e-books