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Facebook: the next ebook publisher?

Facebook Wants a New Face

We’re delighted to present another post by FWR’s editorial intern, Nicole Aber. Enjoy!

Now that Facebook has conquered the world of social networking, could it be setting its sights on online publishing?

Rumors have been spiraling recently about Facebook’s acquisition of e-book publishing company Push Pop Press. But the social networking giant says it won’t be dabbling in the e-book world anytime soon. Instead, it says that it will employ the technological know-how of the company—which released Al Gore’s e-book Our Choice—in its ubiquitous social networking platform. A press release on Push Pop’s site reads:

Now we’re taking our publishing technology and everything we’ve learned and are setting off to help design the world’s largest book, Facebook.

Although Facebook isn’t planning to start publishing digital books, the ideas and technology behind Push Pop Press will be integrated with Facebook, giving people even richer ways to share their stories. With millions of people publishing to Facebook each day, we think it’s going to be a great home for Push Pop Press.

But members of the media aren’t quite sure Facebook is being completely honest. The New York Times remains skeptical:

Facebook has made it apparent over the last few years that it is not just a social network, but an entertainment distributor, too. […] Facebook’s move into other forms of entertainment, like gaming and movies, demonstrates that the company is looking at other forms of revenue beyond standard advertising. Of course, it doesn’t need to own a book company to distribute books. It doesn’t own a movie studio or a game maker.

Both the New York Times and PC World point out that if Facebook did decide to produce e-books in the future, it would have a distinct advantage as both an online publisher and a social network—especially as it continues to compete with Google. The site has access to users’ preferences including, for many people, their book preferences. In addition, PC World notes:

The company could easily create a digital bookstore seamlessly integrated with the social network. This would be a huge boon to authors and publishers, especially small independent ones, who would gain the potential to reach out directly to their social network to engage their fans, and to promote and sell their books directly on the Facebook platform.

Facebook may have other goals in mind for Push Pop as well, such acquiring a new set of computer engineers. Push Pop Press’s co-founders both previously worked for Apple, so the New York Times speculates that Facebook may also be looking for a leg-up in its developments for the iPhone and iPad.

Meanwhile, the Guardian raised a different set of concerns about Facebook’s new purchase: author Jemima Kiss is more concerned about what the acquisition could mean for publishers. While Kiss acknowledges that the social networking site’s “storytelling” capacity may be limited, she suggests that Facebook has the potential to expand its “creative tools”:

Facebook could start to get serious about an interface that provided creative tools, from ecard makers and light video editing for consumers to a customisable, magazine-style layout for professional publishers. […] No-one is suggesting that Facebook is about to start publishing ebooks, but with expertise like Push Pop Press coming on board, significant foundations for public-facing journalists’ pages described as ‘a social newspaper’ already established, and a vast global audience… publishers shouldn’t take this one lying down.

So what do you think will come of Facebook’s new venture? Is it a cause for concern for publishers or a far-off rumination that will have no effect on e-book publishing? Or, could it perhaps just be taking publishing to the next inevitable step and providing the platform for increased synergy between publishing and social media?

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