Huffington Post Starts Publishing E-Books

The AOL (NYSE: AOL) Huffington Post Media Group is the latest news organization to become an e-book publisher. The site will release two titles this month. The first, Arthur Delaney’s A People’s History of the Great Recession, is available now. The second, Aaron Belkin’s How We Won: Progressive Lessons from the Repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, will be released on September 20.

A People’s History of the Great Recession, a compilation of Arthur Delaney’s stories about the financial crisis, is $4.99 at the Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) Kindle Store, Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS) Nook Bookstore, Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) iBookstore, and Kobo, as well as in the German and UK Kindle stores. All of the stories in the book previously ran on the Huffington Post. The book features new introductions by Delaney and Arianna Huffington.

Belkin’s How We Won is an original (i.e., not repurposed from previously published Huffington Post content) book by Aaron Belkin, Associate Professor of Political Science at San Francisco State University and founder and director of gay rights group The Palm (NYSE: HPQ) Center. It will also be $4.99 and available at the same online retailers as People’s History.

The Huffington Post is not paying advances to its authors; instead, they will receive a share of the proceeds from sales, Huffington Post spokesman Rhoades Alderson told me in an e-mail. I asked whether there are plans for future titles. “While we do plan on releasing more of them, we don’t yet have a set schedule for new e-books,” Alderson said. However, future titles would cover topics beyond politics. I also asked whether those future titles would be original or repurposed. “Our e-books are meant to delve more deeply into interesting and timely subjects,” Alderson said. “That, not format, will guide future publishing choices.”

Many other news organizations have started publishing e-books in recent months, primarily in the form of relatively short e-singles. And since publishing that chart right there, more have entered the e-singles game, including the Guardian and Cosmopolitan. Politico recently teamed up with Random House for a series of four instant e-books about the 2012 presidential campaign, and the New York Times (NYSE: NYT) published Open Secrets, an e-book about the Wikileaks cables, in January. In 2009, the Daily Beast announced a partnership with Perseus Books Group to publish Beast Books: titles that would come in at around 150 pages and would be published first as e-books, then as paperbacks.

Huffington Post has the opportunity to be a bit more nimble than the Daily Beast because it’s publishing only digital books and doesn’t have a partnership with a traditional publisher. (Instead, it is working with e-book distributor BookBrewer.) And, as People’s History author told Poynter, “It shows that Huffington Post is doing real reporting. People always say, ‘It’s aggregation and unpaid bloggers,’ but it’s not. It’s more than that.” Huffington also told Poynter that the publishing initiative is “as much about expanding the distribution platform for authors as it is about monetization,” but whether we see many more Huffington Post books may still ultimately depend on how well these first two sell. On the other hand, with no advances at stake and marketing done primarily through the Huffington Post itself, it won’t be hard to pick another topic and try again.