Video: Brian Felsen of on the Future of e-Books

by | Jan 3, 2012

I’m please today to have an interview for you with Brian Felsen, CEO of, the e-book distributor that started as an offshoot of CDbaby, the independent music distributor.

Brian was last here in another interview in June soon after BookBaby was launched.

In this interview we look back at 2011 and forward to the changes we might expect to see in e-book distribution in 2012. We also discuss BookBaby’s recent move into print books.

The video runs 15:35 minutes, and near the end Brian issues a new discount code for readers of The Book Designer, so make sure to stay tuned for that.

(If the video doesn’t appear below, please refresh your screen.)

Discussed in this video:

  • Growth this year at
  • Their move into digital print books
  • How they combined quality production with digital printing
  • Apple’s turn from apps to e-books
  • The prospect for fixed-layout books
  • Strategies for e-book producers
  • … and that all-important coupon code

What questions would you ask Brian Felsen if you could interview him?

tbd advanced publishing starter kit


  1. Patricia Troyer

    Can’t thank you enough for these video interviews and all the rest you tirelessly do for us, Joel. Have been watching BookBaby for a while now, am on their email list, and found this interview very informative. Not to mention it’s always easier to trust someone when you see them talking about what they do.

    Thanks again, Joel and Brian. You keep me psyched for the process…
    Best, Patricia

    • Joel Friedlander

      Glad you’re enjoying them Patricia. I like doing these and have quite a few video interviews coming up, so stay tuned.

  2. mercadeo

    When the Copyright Agency Limited conducted a digital publishing survey recently , it found that some 26 per cent of Australian book publishers have no digital strategy at all, yet two-thirds of CAL members think digital sales will eventually overtake print for the Australian publishing industry as a whole.

  3. eva van loon

    Hi, Joel,
    Great interview. We’re on the same page.
    Question: where’s the door to mass-paperback publishing? I have some authors with big (400+) novels that are really too xpensive to put out in trade-paperback form but would benefit from that cheap paper used in books at Shoppers Drug Mart et al.

    • Joel Friedlander

      Eva, all offset book printers and most print on demand digital book printers can produce a mass market paperback for you. However, with digital you won’t have the range of papers to choose from that offset printers can supply. Mass market paperbacks are usually printed on the cheapest acceptable paper, one step up from newsprint, since the format has always been considered disposable. And it seems to be the format most affected by the popularity of e-readers. Also keep in mind that digital printers charge by the page, so a long book, even in a smaller format, may not be practical.

  4. Will Gibson

    Joel, once again, the information on your blog is invaluable. Thank you very much for another interview with Brian of Bookbaby and for providing us with the knowledge about the possibility of a short run, high quality printing option for self publishers.

    My major disappointment in self publishing over the past two years has been that after all that work involved in writing and editing and formatting your book, it will probably still look self published because of the poor quality covers inherent from print on demand.

    I currently pay $4.90 per book for author’s copies on my 320 page 5.5×8.5 perfect bound novel ‘Paradigm Time’ from CreateSpace. When I sell direct at signings or special events for the $15 list price, I can make $10 a book. With Bookbaby, my author’s cost per copy would go to $8.70 but if I could have ‘traditionally published quality’ books for signings and other direct sales, it would be worth it and I would still be making $6.30 a book.

    Creating better quality books for independent authors is not only critical to the success of a title but can also help validate self publishing in general. Thank you, Joel, for your contributions in informing authors about the many things to know about independent publishing and to Brian for providing us with Bookbaby as way of distributing our product.

    • Joel Friedlander

      Will, thanks for your input. This is a very personal decision for a self-publisher to make. Given a professional design, I’ve found most of the books from print on demand suppliers to be quite acceptable quality. I don’t think they scream “digital” quite as loudly as when print on demand was new. But as the publisher, you are the final arbiter on what is acceptable for your book and, as you say, $6.30 per book is quite good in any case. I’ll be interested in how this works out for you.

      • Will Gibson

        Joel, just one more comment.

        The interior of pod books are just fine and look like traditionally published books. But the covers and the binding, often are not.

        Print on demand covers have a much less ‘comfortable feel’ than regular books and are quickly prone to curling and delamination which is disconcerting to a self publisher when trying to market to bookstores. Additionally, the printing of only one or a few titles at a time with pod (for example with the CreateSpace’ presses because they told me this) does not allow for the dialing down of tolerances with the machines that can produce the same quality book after book as occurs with offset printing.

        I have ordered several proofs and author’s copies from CS over the last few months. And several, usually in the 15-25% range, are routinely replaced by them because of a misaligned or skewed cover design in my case but with many on the CS Community blog because of other problems. Print on demand is cost effective, environmentally correct, but qualitatively defective at this point in time in self publishing.

        I recently ordered two copies of my novel ‘Paradigm Time’ from Amazon because I needed it quickly and because CreateSpace, my printer, would have taken longer. The books I received from a subsequent secondary printer were varied in trim size which skewed the cover and the interior formatting. Also the cover colors weren’t even close to what I had submitted and were disappointing.

        So, while I can control what I sell at signings and special events , I still have no control over what my customers may receive from Amazon or when buying from my author’s estore at CreateSpace. Bookbaby has filled one gap by hopefully providing quality books for direct sales but what will evolve and ensure self publishers in the future that a consistent, quality product can be delivered from print on demand printers.

        And, of course, with ebooks this becomes a mute topic!

        • Joel Friedlander

          Sorry to hear about the troubles you’ve had with POD. I’ve never had a cover that delaminated in all the books—cartons of books—I’ve bought from Lightning Source. Part of the problem is that the covers on most POD books are 10 point stock, and 12 point really works better. Also, due to the equipment on which they are manufactured, tolerances are about twice what they are in offset. I’ve been told that up to .25″ movement is acceptable, and that includes skew.

          And there are plenty of issues with e-books, too, just none that have to do with paper, printing and binding. Thanks for adding to this discussion.

  5. Sharon Beck

    Thanks for alerting us to BookBaby’s services. We do plan to follow up with them at our next opportunity.

  6. Rosie McGee

    Thanks so much for this, Joel and Brian. As a writer/photographer working on the final stages of a memoir with many color photos, I’m currently immersed in research on the best path, platform and design for the launch of my e-book. This couldn’t be more timely or informative. Like you, Joel, I’m particularly interested in BookBaby’s addition of “high-quality and affordable” short-run digital printing and I look forward to hearing more about it.

    • Joel Friedlander

      Rosie, a lot of us are very interested in the possibilities of high quality and affordable short-run digital. Although you can buy beautiful short-run color books, they are not yet at a price that allows for full discounting and still ending up with a reasonable retail price. When the technology matures I’m sure there will be a lot of publishers jumping in.

  7. Dana Ross Martin


    Thanks for bringing us Part 2 of this interview. I was so jazzed about Part 1 that I did, indeed, use Bookbaby to format and distribute my newest novel, “Mrs. Pennybutton – Teacher of Souls”.

    BookBaby is a great company. (and their 10% discount ain’t too shabby either)

    Now, that I’m about to offer “Mrs. Pennybutton” in PRINT, I’ll surely use BookBabyPrint. (again, with that appreciated 10% discount)

    Happy New Year, Joel! Thanks for all that you teach us new (and old) authors)

    Dana Ross Martin

    • Joel Friedlander

      Thanks, Dana. Glad to hear you’ve had good success with your e-book publishing. Look for more interviews as the week goes along.



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