Special to The Eagle
WILLIAMSTOWN -- With Kindles and iPads rapidly replacing paperbacks and magazines, it's clear that technological change is afoot in the world of publishing.
John Pritchard, the creative force behind his multimedia publishing company Eternal Ways, sees this change as both inevitable and exciting.
"The publishing business is going through a renaissance." says Prit chard, 51, who keeps an eye on the industry's giants while cultivating his two-year-old boutique business. "Very serious companies such as Random House and Scholastic have recently converted thousands of books, big chunks of their libraries, to be compatible with the iPad and Kindle. This is rapidly becoming a billion-dollar business."
Pritchard's observations are supported by industry data. A report released by the Association of Ameri can Publishers last month revealed that e-book sales rose 117 percent in the past year, with over a third of print publishers now offering catalogs in formats geared toward e-book readers.
Distributing giants like Amazon are leading the sales pack in terms of market share, but the low overhead and direct-to-consumer nature of the business allows for newcomers like Eternal Ways to jump right into a swiftly expanding market.
"The goal is to develop multimedia properties for the iPad and Kindle, as well as the Web itself because anybody who has a browser can then access it." says Pritchard.
His young business currently offers three titles, each an example of Pritchard's novel approach to tech-savvy publishing. "Reawaken," an experimental documentary narrated by Native American storyteller Kenneth Little Hawk, is available to watch free online or to purchase as a DVD. The project will be released as a movie-in-a-book for the iPad in May.
A second title, "The Common Thread that Binds Us," is a book of stories and insights provided by Little Hawk, also accompanied by a collection of videos hosted online.
"Freddy's Guide to Creative Im provisation," perhaps Eternal Ways' most unorthodox publication, illustrates the company's ingenuity and range of focus. This interactive music lesson, hosted by Grammy Award-winning saxophonist Fred Lipsius of the band Blood, Sweat & Tears, is available as an online video-training program, a printed book, and a three DVD set. All, of course, are directed by Pritchard.
"It's a unique product because not many people are moving their music books, with sheet music, onto the Web with online video." says Pritchard, highlighting the benefits of his progressive endeavor. "You have the instructor there on demand. Fred Lipsius has been teaching at Berklee College of Music for the past 25 years, and now he can teach you wherever and whenever you want on your iPad, Kindle, Mac, or PC. In five or 10 years this is going to be common practice."
The majority of Eternal Ways' sales are made through Amazon, but Pritchard aims to grow the business in the coming years and focus more on Apple's iBookstore and direct web sales.
"There's never been an accessible way to publish to the masses like there is today with a good website and some PR." says Pritchard, whose business philosophy places a heavy emphasis on the potential of the individual and the importance of community.
This populist view of the online marketplace comes in stark contrast to the corporate-driven atmosphere in which Pritchard used to work. Soon after graduating from St. Lawrence College. where he studied filmmaking, Pritchard encountered a high demand for audiovisual production geared toward the Internet.
"I worked with a lot or Fortune 500 companies, particularly Apple Computers, in the heyday of the multimedia scene." he says, discussing his initial post-college forays into net-based publishing. "My claim to fame in New York City was getting an entire city guide onto a single floppy disk. This put our company of two guys on the map in 1988."
The 1990s found Pritchard applying his filmmaking and interactive design skills to a variety of corporate projects in New York and Boston. He produced nationally televised commercials, worked on CD-ROM-based educational software for Microsoft, and helmed an early Youtube-like service which helped filmmakers and musicians promote themselves on the Web.
"As soon as video came on the scene in 1991, the whole multimedia thing just exploded." says Pritchard. "I got into the tech side of things early on too, and that became my key for making money. When you know both sides of the business, creative and technical, you can cut out a lot of additional costs."
This was all before the Web 2.0 movement brought online video hosting, publication, and promotion to the novice with user-friendly services such as Youtube, Facebook and Twitter. Far from mourning the era of corporate-dominated online content, Pritchard took this opportunity to open up shop on his own terms.
"Traditionally, to promote publications, you had to get covered in the local newspaper, or maybe get something in The Boston Globe or New York Times if you were lucky." he says. "Now Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube are my primary marketing vehicles. And they're still in their early stages."
Industry know-how and ac cess ible means of promotion freed him to Williamstown, where his parents live, and start publishing on his terms.
"The really cool thing about the Berkshires is that it's full of creative people." says Pritch ard. "And Eternal Ways is always looking for talented artists who want to publish their works on iPad, Kindle, and Web platforms with video. My goal in the next five years is to grow this thing out to 50 titles."
Pritchard finances Eternal Ways through his Pritchard Digital Arts online video production company, in business since 2000. It is his primary source of income.
Book projects are a 50/50 partnership. The author writes the book and Eternal Ways does the packaging, video production, online promotion and publishing, he said.
"I am primarily interested in working with teachers and college professors who have something educational and positive to contribute to the world. I am also looking for filmmakers who want to use my proprietary Movie-in-a-Book process to create companion books to expand upon the educational content of their movie. My ‘Reawaken' Movie-in-a-Book in coming out for the iPad on May 22.
As for payment, he said, the author is paid 50 percent of the profits every month.
Despite his affinity for video and other emerging technological trends, writers who collaborate with Eternal Ways can rest assured that publication of the works in e-book format will not signal the death knell for ink-and-paper printing.
"Print will never die. There is nothing that will replace the feeling of print in your hands." says Pritchard, who sees e-publishing as anything but antithetical to its tangible forebear. "There's a myth that the e-book is going to replace the printed word. That's like saying Youtube is going to replace commercial television."