The imagined storefront would enable publishers to bundle e-reader versions of their titles with print subscriptions. Squires said he’s talking to other content companies, which he wouldn’t name, about extending the storefront’s offerings beyond newspapers and magazines.
“There will be a vast amount of content—I think in time book publishing, any paid content focused on reading,” he said. “There could be paid blogs, newsletter content, trade publishing, wherever there’s a payment from a consumer.”
Squires said he saw the venture as a complement to other initiatives by companies such as Condé Nast and Hearst to get ready for e-readers.
“I think Skiff could be complementary,” he said of the e-reader content distribution service and online store that Hearst recently announced. “To the degree that we can utilize that platform, we’re excited by what they’re doing.”
The fact that the five partner companies have come together speaks to the seriousness with which they’re taking digital readers. As more reading takes place on handheld devices, publishers, having seen their business eroded by the proliferation of free online content, are intent on ensuring they can translate their brands to e-reading devices and maintain the ability to charge consumers and advertisers for it. Publishers don’t want to end up losing control of their content to digital distributors as they say the music and book industries did to iTunes and Amazon.
“For five major publishing houses to come together when it’s in their blood to compete with each other, to create an independent entity, is a big deal,” said a source close to the process.
“I think it’s revolutionary,” Sauerberg said. “You’ve not seen all the major players come together and get aligned on a subject. We came together in an incredibly short time. I think it was clear to use that working together, it would allow us to work quicker and more efficiently as this market emerges.”