At the forefront of ebook publishing is Nils von Heijne – founder of uTales – a two-year-old Swedish digital children’s book publishing company.
von Heijne has created a new business model for publishing through innovative technology, reasonable market prices, digital and print book options, social media engagement and a win-win business relationship with authors.
The web site market place offers titles directly for sale through a monthly subscription rate or individual book purchases. In addition, through social media, they have successfully created a foundation to engage and support the marketing efforts of their authors. Even more startling, authors and illustrators are paid and a portion of their profits are donated to Pencils for Promise, which supports global educational projects. This business structure has created a win-win for all partners necessary to make this endeavor a success.
Beyond the business structure, uTales books are colorful, dynamic, heartfelt and connect children around the world. In addition, uTales ebooks allow children to safely explore the world and use their imagination on an iPad, iPhone or tablet. Influenced by recent neurological research on the development of the brain of a child, uTales is not adding all of the interactive technology options of video and games to their books in light of the potential harm to a child’s brain. Therefore, parents and teachers can be assured of a safe and educational reading experience for their child.
Some delightful examples include “A Lalela Project: The Stories of Ubuntu“, art and stories from South Africa or “Eva the Diva” by Jackie Kramer and Brandy Antonio or “The Little Sea Horse” by Annina Luck Wildermuth (a personal friend who introduced me to uTales). For the first time, uTales has partnered with Fast Pencil to offer the print on demand option for two volumes of A “Lalela Project: Stories of Ubuntu”.
When asked about uTales success, von Heijne responds that they don’t release statistics but personally found their biggest success to be the release of their The Friendship Alphabet book, which was an idea and collaboration between 30 authors and illustrators from around the world. Together they created the ebook and together they agreed to direct all of the proceeds to Pencils for Promise.
To von Heijne one measure of success is creating a business that does good and gives something back. Spending half his time in New York and half his time in Sweden, von Heijne, says it is important to “work to make the world better”. He is especially Inspired by Toms shoes for their quality, social responsibility and influence.
von Heijne said, their biggest challenge to date is that “we were too early to this market” and that uTales does “things so differently from the rest of the publishing industry”. He will continue to keep “challenging the world of publishing and will keep trying new things, to push new boundaries”.
Does an entrepreneur ever fail? “Yes,” von Heijne responded. “In so many ways,” he shared, “from knowing everything you do won’t be a success, to not getting jobs.” However, von Heijne emphasized, the importance to “always try, you don’t know unless you try.” He advised, “be true to yourself, your project, how you work, and it is all about people.”
von Heijne along with a small tech savvy team and the editorial review team led by children’s book publishing expert Emma Dryden have created an innovative publishing house and show what is truly possible in the business of sharing stories.
By Keri Douglas, writer and photographer, Washington, D.C. © 2012