Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish blog may be best known for political
content, but its most popular feature is party agnostic and user
generated. Over the last three years, readers have submitted photos of
scenes snapped from their windows, for a weekly featured titled “The View From Your Window.”

Amid hundreds of photos and growing interest, The Atlantic has now chosen 200 of those images and produced a coffee table book. The front and back images have been crowd
sourced. But that’s not as interesting as the price tag, which
depends on how many people purchase the book.

According to The Daily Dish:

“What’s exciting to us is that we’ve bypassed the entire old media
publishing model. We have sought no advance, edited the whole thing
ourselves, paid no agent, had Dish readers select the cover image, and
asked no old media publishing house to take on the project. Just go to this page and pay $29.95 and you can get your own copy.”

But they’re hoping that by getting people to pledge to buy the book ahead of time, the unit per price will go down:

“If we order a mass offset printing, each unit costs a lot less
(just like in old-style publishing). It will take a little longer than
ordering the book yourself right now, but the savings could be
considerable. The Dish is not looking to make money off this – we’ve
decided to forgo any profit to get you the book you created at the
cheapest price possible. So if 1,000 of you pledge to order the book,
we can slash the price; if 2,000 do so, we can slash it some more. The
goal is to bring the price of the book to under $20. Perhaps well under.”

The pre-purchase window is open until Wednesday and within the first 2 hours they received 300 requests for books.

It will be interesting to see how many pre-orders are made by Wednesday. Meanwhile, $29.95 is not a bad price for a full-color hardcover, so there’s plenty to suggest the book will continue to sell after Wednesday.

But can a similar model work for a for-profit book publishing business? Well, there’s nothing to say that it couldn’t work. but there are more than a few caveats:

  • People like coffee table books.
    Pictures are pretty. And are easier to return to than 500 pages of non-fiction. 
  • There’s little to no overhead.
    The beauty of user submitted content. Readers submitted the photos and The Atlantic is only purchasing pre-ordered copies. There’s no advance for writing the content, and no cut of the profits owed to the creator after the book sells. 

The Daily Dish, for one, sees this as the beginning of a new wave of crowd-source book selling and woud like to be at the forefront of implementing some moves in this direction. The blog writes:

“No old-media publishing house would give you those options. The
combination of a blog and print-on-demand publishing can. And if this
model works, it could help launch a whole new wave of books created
with user-generated content and priced with crowd-sourcing
efficiencies. We hope the Dish will help pioneer this, and help do to
the book publishing industry what blogs have helped do to MSM
establishment journalism. A four-color 200 page book is an ambitious
place to start, but, as always at the Dish, our attitude is: why the
hell not?”

Of course, not everyone thinks that what blogs have done to mainstream media is classified as “help,” but the strugglnig publishing industry is clearly in need of some. And anything that helps deliver content at cheaper prices will be well-received by consumers. User generated books are already popular with publishers because they have a built in audience. If The Dish can figure out how to turn a profit on its new scheme, then it will really get interesting.

Image: The Daily Dish