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Facebook acquires Push Pop Press, but won't make books

August 3, 2011 | 10:33 am

Pushpop_screenshot
Facebook has bought ebook publisher Push Pop Press. But that doesn't mean they're getting into the publishing business. In fact, it's exactly the opposite: Push Pop Press is getting out.

"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," the publisher writes on its website.

Push Pop Press had published one ebook for the iPad, Al Gore's "Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis." It was founded by two former Apple developers.

In a blog post titled This is why we'll never have innovative ebooks, Wired sounded the cranky old man alarm:

So instead of an independent born-digital press, publishing next-generation multimedia novels (or magazines or textbooks or children’s books or cookbooks), Facebook will probably get marginally better iOS apps....

We sorely need independent innovation in digital publishing. We need talented people who are willing to try things. Meanwhile, all of the money, attention and technological skill is marching in the opposite direction. Most big media companies with plenty of capital and deep technical talent see few if any reasons to innovate or invest in books.

Surely there are writers with fantastic ideas for new kinds of publications.

Indeed, there are. Evan Ratliff -- who once wrote about trying to disappear for Wired -- is one. He's the founding editor of the Atavist, which publishes long-form multimedia nonfiction articles for the iPad and other tablets -- or to put it another way, short-form ebooks. And the Atavist's publishing platform has a lot in common with Push Pop Press -- it builds multimedia stories. In addition to selling articles, the Atavist is now licensing its publishing platform, called Periodic Technology.

"Push Pop was working in the same general area as us, albeit with a slightly different philosophy from what we could tell, and we'd been excited to see what they would come up with next," Ratliff told Jacket Copy in an email. "I don't have any specific insights into the acquisition, not knowing anyone on either side or anything about the reasoning behind it. But overall it strikes me as validating the development of new kinds of multimedia storytelling tools, no matter how they end up being utilized."

I'd guess Push Pop Press will be utilized to enable Facebook's users to create multimedia scrapbooks, with content uploaded to Facebook. Or maybe it'll be something simpler, a better Facebook iPad interface.

But the disappearance from Push Pop Press is hardly the end of innovative ebooks. They're just getting started.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Push Pop Press website screenshot

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