Mobile e-book start-up Ether Books is to be sold after its founders decided that it needed fresh investment to develop the service out of beta. It is now looking to sell the business to a publisher or other book industry company.
Ether Books was founded in the UK in 2010 by mobile expert Maureen Scott and co-founder Dr Mike Jones. But although it cut some notable deals with publishers—the first chapter of Vanessa Lafaye's novel Summertime (Orion) was published on the platform in 2015—Scott says the app would be better supported by an existing player in order to grow its customer base. Scott remains certain that smartphones remain a massive opportunity for publishers and content suppliers, pointing to 6th annual edition of Deloitte's UK Mobile Consumer Survey, which showed that smartphone penetration in the UK market now stands at 81%, up from 52% in 2012.
However, like many start-ups Ether has struggled to turn interest from publishers and booksellers into a deal, while investment is necessary to market the platform beyond its current customer base.
Scott told The Bookseller: “Ether Books was very early when we started developing our apps and technology platform back in 2010. Our team included mobile and technical infrastructure specialists who knew how to design and build a scalable platform targeting smartphone, tablet and social media users. We never wavered from our belief that the key device to target was the smartphone; we built Ether's solution to enable consumers to ‘discover’ new authors and e-books straight from their smartphones. The time has come for Ether to be acquired by a publishing entity with a marketing team capable of taking Ether Books beyond its current project phase, and to implement the planned functionality of enabling sales of physical books.” She added that Ether also provided an in-built advertising revenue stream that already generates small revenues.
Ether has published "made for mobile" quick reads straight to mobiles, with Facebook and Twitter integration, and features reader recommendations. The founders originally raised £250,000 to build the tech. Ether Book's UK m.d. Andy Hayward added: “The Ether Books technology platform was technically architected from day one to be a new distribution platform for the publishing industry or a single publisher. The platform has an integrated recommendation engine, and star rating system.” Hayward said the platform could be acquired on “very favourable terms”, with the idea that the acquirer would build on the existing technology to realise its potential.
Scott is now starting a new company in the FinTech (financial technology) space.