Quick Pitch: Open Air Publishing advances the how-to genre with high-quality, multimedia books for the iPad.
Genius Idea: Jon Feldman, then a management consultant at Booz & Company in New York, was reminded this past January that New Year’s resolutions are often more pleasurable to conceive than execute.
For several years running, Feldman had resolved to learn how to order and appreciate wine, to play poker skillfully and to acquire a new fitness routine, but repeatedly failed to do so.
“There’s never been a great way to learn things like this,” he points out. “Classes are hard to find, or at the very least they’re expensive and inconvenient, and online video is generally low-quality and uncurated. It’s difficult to learn something like wine appreciation and poker skills on YouTube.”
Books, whether printed or electronic, are flat and two-dimensional, he adds, and learning a skill from a show (like, say, cooking) is difficult because it requires both recording the show and going online for recipes and other information.
This frustration, coupled with what he saw as untapped potential on Apple’s market-leading iPad device, inspired Feldman to leave consulting to start Open Air Publishing this past April. The company, which just hired its third employee away from College Humor (where Feldman once worked), published its first how-to book for the iPad in August.
Speakeasy Cocktails [$12.99, iTunes link] is authored by Rob Willey, a so-called cocktail journalist who has done extensive freelance work for Details, among others. He worked with leading New York City mixologists Jim Meehan of PDT and Joseph Schwartz of Little Branch to compile and demonstrate the techniques readers would need to create more than 100 elegant cocktails on their own.
It’s a solid book even without the multimedia features — although the multimedia features, particularly the elaborately staged videos, elevate it from a how-to guide to something rivaling a small group class (minus, of course, the ability to ask questions and solicit a little extra help now and then).
Open Air is planning to release several more books in the fall, although Feldman declined to say what they were. (“We don’t want to signal anything to our competition,” he explained. “If we even have competition yet.”) A list of “coming soon” titles on Open Air’s site suggests that wine, dog training, billiards, photography and jewelry making could be on the way.
The company raised an undisclosed round of angel funding earlier this year. Authors are compensated in part through royalties, although it’s unclear whether they receive an advance and, if so, whether that advance is significant.
Speakeasy Cocktails Trailer
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