How-To Publisher Open Air Raises $800K From SV Angel, Charles River, And Others

Open Air Publishing has just raised an $800,000 seed round to fuel its efforts to create a new kind of how-to book for tablet and mobile devices.

Founder and CEO Jon Feldman compares the current state of tablet publishing to the early days of television, where most shows were just filmed radio plays — no one had figured out how to take advantage of the medium yet. In the same way, Feldman says there’s an opportunity to create books that are written and designed entirely for the iPad, the iPhone, and eventually other devices, rather than just slapping some digital extras onto a traditional book.

Open Air was founded in 2011, and it has already published four titles, starting with Speakeasy Cocktails: Learn from the Modern Mixologists, and including Holiday Recipes & Party Planning Guide, a cookbook that we’ve written about on TechCrunch. Naturally, these titles include features like slideshows, video, and other kinds of “tappable” content. Feldman says this approach also means Open Air doesn’t have to worry about many of the issues in print publishing, such as making sure the books reach a certain length so that they take up enough space on the shelf.

Feldman says that the company usually decides what the topic of its next book should be, then recruits a well-known expert in the field to write it — with the development itself being handled by the Open Air team and tech. (The company’s books are built on top of the Inkling Habitat platform.) This hybrid between a publisher and studio approach, combined with the fact that the titles are being built solely for digital, also means that books can be created at a fraction of the traditional time and cost, Feldman says. 

It sounds like the approach is working so far. Open Air says all of its books have reached number one or two in its category in the United States and elsewhere, and that they’ve all made it into the top 100 rankings in the US. The books are normally priced between $4.99 and $9.99.

Until now, those titles have all been iPad-only, but now Open Air is releasing iPhone versions, and plans to publish future titles to be compatible with all iOS devices. Feldman also says that he plans to have nine books out by the end of the year.

As for the funding, the investors include SV Angel, Charles River Ventures, 500 Startups, The Social+Capital Partnership, Richmond Park Partners, David Tisch (of TechStars NYC), Advancit Capital, DEV (Digital Entertainment Ventures), Graph Ventures, Red Swan, Lars Albright, Sam Stahl, and Josh Mohrer.