Los Angeles-based writer and producer Tim Street thinks the next big opportunity for independent video producers will come from books. Electronic books that is.

“With enhanced ebooks independent filmmakers, comedians, web video series creators, musicians, artists, bloggers, podcasters — even magicians and jugglers all have a new way to monetize the content that they’ve been giving away for free on the Internet,” Street said.

Street published his $3.99 mystery/thriller “Vids” this week on the iTunes bookstore that’s accessible from hundreds of millions of iPads, iPhones, and Macs. Vids tells the story of a young woman jilted by her lover, a married Washington lobbyist.

Through the use of text, photos, and over 90 minutes of video, Vids follows the woman’s efforts to exact revenge on her ex-lover by posting hidden camera footage of him with other women on a website that quickly goes viral. The site is hacked, the woman goes missing, and the mystery begins.

Street began working on the project in late 2001 with the hopes of telling the story on the web. But 2001 was a difficult time for independent content creators. YouTube was still years off, broadband connections were not yet plentiful, and a lack of standards for video distribution made it difficult and expensive to reach audiences. Google even refused to run its revenue sharing advertisements on the site.

So despite having hired professional actors and producing 90 minutes of video, Street decided to put the project on the shelf and develop similar sites for movie studios.

But then a chance conversation and the release of Apple’s iBook author platform got him thinking.

“Somebody last year said to me, ‘whatever you were working on 10 years ago, take another look at it,’” Street said, “I am so glad I heard that, because that’s what made me rejuvenate this project.”

Street downloaded the free iBooks Author software for his Mac and over the course of several months constructed the final product himself, releasing it on July 4 in 32 countries with a mouse click.

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Apple charges authors nothing to host the content but takes 30 percent of the sale with the author keeping the rest. Amazon and Google offer similar revenue sharing percentages on their electronic book stores. It’s a royalty rate unheard of in the traditional publishing industry, but independent authors also don’t get the marketing support that a major publisher would provide.

Street feels that the potential marketplace is now large enough to be of value to independent content creators looking to monetize their work directly. In general, most independent producers give their content away for free on sites like YouTube, hoping to pick up a small share of advertising revenue.

With the news and entertainment industries still struggling to cope with the disruptive change brought by high-speed internet connections, Street thinks ebooks could be the solution for many independent producers.

“You’ve got a cash register at the iTunes store,” he said.


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