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What’s the Big Deal about BigUniverse.com?

April 10th, 2010 No comments

The letter from the publisher of my latest children’s book read “Congratulations! WHAT REALLY HAPPENED TO HUMPTY” has been acquired by BigUniverse.com. Of course, I went right to the Internet to check it out. Was this the whole e-book thing I’d heard so much about? Had I defended my Kindle only to have it come back to bite me in the butt?

Turns out that BigUniverse.com is a site where subscribers have access to an online library of more than 1,000 children’s picture books online, including my newest book. For as little as $8.95 a month, an individual – and up to five family members – can read unlimited books, create unlimited books (yes, you can write and illustrate your own stories on the site), share unlimited books, and publish unlimited books.

Publish unlimited books? For just $8.95 a month? It sounds crazy. But what struck me as even crazier – at least for a published author – is that subscribers can READ unlimited books from the online library. How is it possible to have access – albeit online – to so many books for so little money? And for me, the author, to make any money whatsoever from this site?

I looked again at the letter. It did start out with the word “Congratulations.” And it wasn’t a form letter from Publishers’ Clearing House. This was a real letter written by a real person at my publishing house. The same person who sends me clippings from great reviews. I like this person. I trust this person. This must be good news; something I should be happy about, right?

That’s what I kept telling myself as I continued to check out the BigUniverse.com site. I saw that a teacher could subscribe for a classroom of up to 35 students for $14.95 a month. That’s less than the cost of one hardcover copy of my book, for the opportunity to read unlimited books, create unlimited books, share unlimited books, and publish unlimited books.

There’s also a price for an entire school to subscribe to BigUniverse.com. The price depends on the size of the school, of course, but it means that everyone in the school can read unlimited books, create unlimited books, etc. etc.
I looked up my book. There it was, in full color, complete from cover to cover. Subscribers could read it over and over and over, share it with others, and add it to their virtual libraries. The only thing missing was being able to hold the book, to feel the paper at every page turn, to smell the ink (or imagine that you can).

“Think of all the exposure your book will get!,” said the person from my publisher. Think of all the people who will be able to read my book — and more than 1,000 more – for as little as $8.95 a month, I said to myself.

“Think of all the people who will have the opportunity to read your book!,” said the person from my publisher. Think of all the people who already have the opportunity to read my book, I said to myself. It’s available at just about any bookstore, or they can buy a copy online.

Then I started thinking. Authors want people to read their books. Of course, they’d like to make some money, too. But most children’s authors don’t make a lot of money from their books, especially picture-book authors like me. So if something like BigUniverse.com can allow more people to read my book, that’s a good thing. I don’t know if it’s a great thing, but in this ever-changing world of publishing, I’m willing to keep an open mind.

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