Online publisher creates reader community

Over 200 books uploaded to the site

Wellington start-up Bookhabit is offering a new way for readers to find books, and for writers to publish.

The Bookhabit website, which launched officially in the end of February, already has over a 1,000 users, says e-commerce director Stefan Korn. Over 200 books are uploaded to the site’s online e-book library, which attracts 30-40 new users a day, he says.

Authors upload their books for free and the reader community then downloads and rates the books. Readers can read a part of the book, usually the first chapter, for free and can then choose to download the full book. Prices start from US$2.50, and depending on how popular the book is, the price goes up. However, no book costs more than US$5, says Korn.

The site has a whole range of categories, divided into fiction and non-fiction.

The writers come from all over the world, says Korn. Currently the top-three author countries are New Zealand, the US and the UK.

By traffic volume and downloads, the US is the biggest market for Bookhabit. “However, New Zealand is contributing more than can be expected on a fair share basis,” he adds.

Readers can download books from anywhere, for example from home, in cafes with wi-fi hotspots or in the flight lounge before a flight, to have something to read on the plane, says Korn.

Conversion rates so far have been good compared to other sites Korn has worked with, he says. “It is great to see that we are able to convert so many visitors into actual users, who comment and download and upload books. The interaction is really good.”

Half the people that sign up also submit comments, he says.

Founder and managing director Clare Tanner got the idea for Bookhabit when she attended a presentation by Korn on Web 2.0 last year.

Korn, who has a PhD in Artificial Intelligence and an MBA in International Business, runs website production company WebFund, which has helped develop and market web ventures such as Celsias.com, Mintshot.co.nz and DIYFather.com.

Tanner has an entrepreneurial background; she set up telco Simply Calling, which was sold to Actrix in 2007.

Tanner thought that the way technology was heading, previous barriers to authors getting discovered and published shouldn’t exist. She talked to Korn about her idea and the two teamed up to create the site.

Bookhabit follows the model of the music industry, which in the last couple of years has made music available for downloading for a small fee, Korn says.

The site gives authors first-hand information on who are reading their book, and what they think about it. It is helping authors to market books online and it offers them the chance to interact with their audience, he says.

Many writers are unfamiliar with community marketing, so Korn and Tanner aim to educate writers on how to take advantage of this.

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