[Kbuuk simply comes from blending the words cloud and book, with an alternate spelling for uniqueness and discoverability. The pronunciation is intended to be a hard and swift K'bŏk, not Kā-bŏk or Kä-bŏk.]
Kbuuk is a digital publishing platform for authors, based in Houston, Texas, and founded by Isaac Shi and Dougal Cameron in 2011. Shi’s background is in design and software development, while Cameron’s background is in business administration, research and banking. The company’s online site, equipped with ebook building tools, was launched this year and also offers authors the ability to sell and distribute books in the Kbuuk bookstore. Premium members of Kbuuk (monthly or yearly subscription) benefit from extended distribution through Kindle, Nook, iPad and Kobo.
“With a few simple clicks, the disfranchised gain voice. We offer a free publishing platform that utilizes the benefits of an e-book structure: flexibility. If you would like to learn more about what we're about, we'd like to invite you to read our manifesto, which can be found at http://kbuuk.com/manifesto.”
Kbuuk say its mission is ‘to break down the barriers of traditional publishing by empowering independent authors to publish ebooks quickly and conveniently. Equipped with a suite of powerful and intuitive tools, authors can also engage readers and track sales to refine products and strategy.’ Digital publishing online has now become a highly competitive field with numerous new companies appearing month after month. The real key to success for any new player in this area is to separate its services and platform from the competition and build a solid brand and lasting membership base with authors. That is not an easy task to achieve because the strong nature of independent authors means they will always navigate to platforms which offer the largest access to ebook devices and have the widest reach to book readers.
So what do Kbuuk offer an author and how do they differentiate themselves from the competition?
"We make intuitive software. We don’t sell training because you don’t need it. Your job is to write; therefore, we don’t complicate matters with complicated processes.
We make powerful software. Our software does exactly what you need. We don’t muddle the power of simplicity with the horror of complexity.We treat authors as entrepreneurs. We are entrepreneurs and you are entrepreneurs, and as entrepreneurs, we know you value simple, consistent, and powerful tools that help you connect with your customers.We don’t hide fees or plot “gotcha” pricing. Our prices are straightforward and the same for all of our users. Our pricing structure will not change after you start using the software, just when we have you hooked on how awesome it really is.We believe great service is everything. Our staff is hired to serve you. Without our customers, we are nothing, and we know that."
Kbuuk’s software tools do work well for online upload and their whole online platform is easy to navigate and user friendly, but I’m not sure I’d go as far as describing it as a smooth connection between Kbuuk authors and their readers. The Kbuuk platform offers a simple 5-step publishing process which includes a docx to ePub conversion tool. Authors also have access to an author portal for easy management of sales and reader interaction data and linking into several social media channels. The key word here is linked, rather than necessarily connected or fully interacting with those social networks.
"We believe that the written word influences the ideas, beliefs, and value systems of a culture, and a book is simply a means of communicating ideas. We strongly feel that there should be as few barriers to the transmission of ideas as possible."
Dougal Cameron, COO of Kbuuk in a 2012 press release.
Kbuuk has made great efforts not to fall into the trap many other digital publishing platforms have; meaning the design and appeal of the website is intended for both authors and readers. There are some discoverability and recommendation widgets, but I think there is still a great deal more improvement needed to blend social media and book reviews into the platform.
“While competitors abound who create and distribute e-books, few have married distribution with refining capabilities. Indeed, refining books was a core offering of the traditional publishing industry. Authors relied on publishers to determine what a reader would or would not like in his book before printing it. Now, however, authors can simply watch readers as they progress through the book.”
This piece from Kbuuk’s linkedin page did puzzle me a little and I’m not sure Kbuuk quite deliver on the above statement. Ultimately, though, Kbuuk is still a work in progress. Certainly, many authors today would agree that ‘refining books was a core offering of the traditional publishing industry.’ I’d actually argue it is one of the defining reasons why authors believe publishers don’t add to the process of modern book publication, and, if anything, have removed more of the curation and marketing support authors once heavily relied upon. Kbuuk is right to point out that publishers should marry distribution with refining capabilities, but publishers continue to insist on farming out such activities to third-parties in recent years. It’s Kbuuk’s larger competitors like Smashwords and Kobo who do this remarkably well. Amazon, as a retailer and monolithic distributor, has made book discoverability and social media interaction an experience in itself for readers and authors.
Authors can sign up to Kbuuk for free, use the publishing software tools and sell their book through the online bookstore (ePub format) and iPad app. Premium membership is on offer for $19 per month or $199 per year and provides extended distribution through Kindle, iPad, Nook and Kobo. Of course, authors could publish to all of the individual channels directly, but Kbuuk is removing the complications of reformatting and time required to access all these. Kbuuk pays 80% royalty to the author from their online store, and 100% from external distribution sales, but do bear in mind that 100% royalty is subject to the actually percentage share split each individual channel offers. For example, Amazon Kindle cedes a 70/30 split in favour of the author, likewise with Apple’s iBookstore. So, Kbuuk’s 100% royalty, in relation to Kindle and iPad sales, is actually 70%.
“Any titles published using the free Kbuuk account enjoy 80% royalties. For premium users, 100% royalties means you earn 100% of the royalties earned across all of the different distribution channels royalty splits. Royalty splits for individual retail channels vary by channel depending on the price you set for your book. Please be advised that with a premium plan we advise you to price your book at $2.99 or higher for maximum royalty benefits.”
Though Kbuuk split membership into three plans, FREE, PREMIUM and ANNUAL, in essence, the only difference between the premium and annual is the discount allowed of $29 by paying for a full year of membership in advance.
5-Step Instant Publish
Instant eBook Sales
Social Media Tools
Kbuuk Store Royalty-80%
Royalty Withdraw, Any Amount & Anytime
eBook Distribution in Kbuuk Bookstore and iPad app
PREMIUM & ANNUAL Membership:
All services in FREE plan +
Unlimited ISBN allocation
eBook Distribution to Kindle, iPad, Kobo, Nook
I should at this point draw attention to Kbuuk’s distribution credits, 6 credits are awarded once an author upgrades to PREMIUM membership. This is worth keeping in mind if you intend distributing your book across multiple channels with Kbuuk because each channel will consume 1 credit (worth $15) per book, and this will be the case with any ebooks revised/edited and reissued.
“Distribution credits allow authors to distribute a title to our third party retail channels: Amazon Kindle Store, Kobo Bookstore, and Nook Bookstore. Universal ISBN numbers are required before you can distribute your books to these channels, and premium subscribers are provided with unlimited ISBNs and 6 distribution credits upon upgrading. Each time a title is distributed to a third party retail channel, whether it is a new title or a title that has been edited or updated, one distribution credit is used. Additional distribution credits can be purchased for $15/credit.”
So, as an example, an author signing up for a full year of membership ($199) will consume 4 of their allotted 6 credits if their book is made available on Kindle, Kobo, iPad and Nook. This may be fine if you publish a single title per year with no subsequent editions, but this system has the potential to become potentially expensive if you intend publishing several titles per year, with revisions, across all channels.
Authors should also note, as with most online book creation tools on digital publishing platforms, it is the responsibility of authors using Kbuuk’s ebook creation tools to provide the photographic materials for a covers. Authors should ensure they have the right to use any graphic material and that it is of a high enough quality for reproduction online.
Kbuuk list a full FAQ section here. Here some notable points I’ve extracted from the FAQ’s:
· Books need to be uploaded in docx or ePub format. There are online conversion tools if you don’t normally work on documents in these formats.
· Kbuuk’s online upload tools and dashboard work much like Lulu’s online engine.
· The author retains all rights to a book and a book can be withdrawn at any time.
· Royalties are paid (on NET) to an author through PayPal.
Heather Wied, on Kbuuk’s blog explains a little more about the idea behind the company and what attracted her to become the company’s Marketing Director:
“However, it was the one where I met our cofounder Isaac for the first time that really cemented my belief that I had found the right place to launch my career where I wanted it to go. Isaac told me about his background as a developer and his past projects, as well as a short anecdote about how he came up with the idea for Kbuuk. But it was an idea he expressed about how Kbuuk is akin to traditional Chinese storytelling that really stuck with me, and I was curious to learn more.Historically in the art form of traditional Chinese storytelling, stories were passed on through oral and written traditions. But the stories were amalgamations of stories from multiple parties and not necessarily of the educated elite, but rather of the common people. The more people contributed, the more interesting the stories became. Isaac said he saw this company as a tool to empower anyone to create, distribute, and refine their stories, which was different from how publishing as we have known it for the last several decades in the U.S. Or at least how many of us on the outside have viewed it.”
Overall, Kbuuk looks a promising new digital publishing enterprise. The site and online tools are smooth, appealing and easy to use. Their royalties and terms are author-friendly, though, as I’ve indicated above, the distribution credits may deter prolific authors wanting to upload and tweak multiple books. Right now, I’m unconvinced authors using a platform like Smashwords will switch over to Kbuuk. Where Kbuuk can grow their membership is with authors new to digital publishing. I just don’t feel there is enough on offer to win over existing ebook authors and this may prove to be the biggest challenge for Kbuuk in the months ahead. Kbuuk also need to further develop author and reader interaction in one single place and build a larger community.
Over the coming months Kbuuk will introduce more distribution channels and a full gamut of ebook publishing services. Digital printing is also one other possible area of development Kbuuk should consider developing.
RATING: 6.5/10 (provisional)