PRI, Byliner partner for e-book adaptations of Studio 360

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Public Radio International and e-publishing startup Byliner will bring “enhanced e-book” versions of Studio 360 episodes to audiences this month.

The books are based on the arts and culture program’s “American Icons” series, which profiles milestones in U.S. culture. The first three books will cover Moby-Dick, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and Disney’s theme parks. Two more sets of three books will follow, a month to six weeks apart.

Like all Byliner original productions, the enhanced e-books will be free to its subscribers, and they will be sold on iTunes, Google Play and other online retailers for $3.99 each. PRI and Byliner will share profits. Parties involved would not discuss specifics of the split.

The production partnership stems from a shared professional history between Studio 360 host Kurt Andersen and Byliner President Deanna Brown, who co-founded an Internet company together in the late 1990s. Founded in 2011, Byliner has published original works by authors including Jon Krakauer, Margaret Atwood and Elmore Leonard.

Studio 360’s books will feature audio, video and materials that didn’t make the final cut of broadcast episodes. PRI and Byliner are considering the e-book treatment for other PRI properties as well.

Byliner handles most of the production work, keeping costs low for PRI, according to Melinda Ward, PRI chief content officer. The producer/distributor tried e-publishing on its own in 2012 with an e-book based on the Studio 360 education initiative “Teacher Redesign.” By teaming up with Byliner, PRI aims to extend its reach even further to the e-reading audience.

Other public media outlets have been experimenting with e-publishing as well. The Splendid Table published a series of four recipe collections beginning in March 2013. In August 2013, Minnesota Public Radio’s news division released Fighting for an American Countryside, an e-book chronicling stories of small-town Minnesotans.

Next Avenue, a Twin Cities Public Television initiative for viewers ages 50 and older, released a series of e-books last month retailing for less than $5, with titles such as “Meaning & Purpose in the Second Half of Life” and “The Fiftysomething Diet.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the title of PRI’s Melinda Ward. She is chief content officer, not a senior v.p. The story also incorrectly reported that Studio 360 co-producer WNYC would share revenue from sales of the program’s e-books. Only PRI and Byliner will share revenue from sales.
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