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Book Publisher Enters World of Podcasting

Holtzbrinck Publishers becomes the first major book publisher to offer free podcasts of titles as the German-owned company strives to gain more reader attention in a media-cluttered world.

Visitors to www.holtzbrinckpodcasts.com can subscribe or download each week's audio excerpts of selected books from Holtzbrinck trade publishers like Farrar Straus & Giroux, Henry Holt, Picador, St. Martin's Press, Tor/Forge and Audio Renaissance.

“What we're doing as a trade publisher is allowing users to experience new books whenever they want, the same way that they might not have the time to listen to a radio show the day it's broadcast, but will listen to it later,” said Jeff Gomez, director of Internet marketing at Holtzbrinck, New York.

Podcasting is a system of publishing sound files online to let users subscribe to a recording via an RSS feed. Podcasting software on a user's computer regularly searches and downloads new podcasts. The files can be heard on the computer or downloaded to a portable music player.

Holtzbrinck's podcast categories are fiction, nonfiction, science fiction and self-help. A typical podcast is about 30 minutes, including up to three excerpts. Each excerpt lasts 10 minutes, comprising mostly a book's first chapter.

In addition, the site will run special events such as author readings as well as spotlighted-title podcasts of interviews and material not found in the book. The events and spotlighted-title podcasts will be posted monthly.

Recent podcasts include a book reading at a New York Barnes & Noble store from author Michael Cunningham for his new novel, “Specimen Days.” Another podcast focuses on “The Moscow Vector” Covert-One series created by Robert Ludlum and written by Patrick Larkin.

Though a podcast is technically offered through an RSS feed, Holtzbrinck is offering its own versions as an MP3 download from holtzbrinckpodcasts.com for easy sampling. Site visitors also can sign up for an online newsletter that updates them on the latest podcasts and previews the upcoming podcast schedule.

Of course, the case can be made that other publishers make available select recordings of their books online. But Gomez thinks his offering is unique.

“Some [publishers] have offered digital posting on their sites for select books, but that's not really a podcast,” he said. “A podcast is something that's ongoing, that's offered like a regular show or series, which is 'podcast' instead of 'broadcast.'”

Holtzbrinck aims to appeal to consumers interested in print or audio books. All its podcast selections are available in print and audio format, helping subscribers later decide which format to experience the entire book in when they opt to buy it via online or retail book stores.

“I'm hoping people will hear something in the podcast they like and that they will then purchase either the print book or audio book,” Gomez said.

The effort was born from a hard reality most book publishers face: making their titles stand out — with inadequate marketing support — from the tens of thousands that flood the market yearly.

“There's so much competition out there, and it's really a finite number when you talk about the attention of the book-buying audience,” Gomez said. “We could place ads in magazines or create commercials for them, but that's both costly and, these days, increasingly ineffective.

“What podcasting allows us to do is introduce users to books we think they're going to love,” he said. “What I'm doing is using podcasts as a matchmaker, getting my books together with consumers who I'm hoping will like them.”

Mickey Alam Khan covers Internet marketing campaigns and e-commerce, agency news as well as circulation for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters

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