New e-book single publishers continue to surface in Europe. In January, Helsinki-based Long Play began releasing one nonfiction e-book single a month, according to Johanna Vehkoo, co-founder and editor-in-chief of the company.
Long Play is certainly not the first European e-book single publisher to emerge. Thin Reads, which tracks developments in the world of e-book singles with reviews and best-seller lists, wrote about the Danish publisher Zetland in the spring.
Long Play's focus is strictly long-form journalism, with an added emphasis on investigative work. Vehkoo's roots are in mainstream journalism. She was working as the literary editor at Aamulehti, Finland's second largest newspaper before studying for two years at England's Oxford University on a fellowship. Her purpose: to rethink the future of journalism. But she did more than think about the future of journalism; she wrote a book about it.
From there, Vehkoo and her partner Reetta Nousiainen set out to invent the future of journalism. They conceived the idea for Long Play at the end of 2011. They applied unsuccessfully to several foundations for funding. Along the way, the Long Play team swelled to eight journalists for their January 2013 launch. Their entire start-up tab: $600. The money covered the cost of an illustrator for their first book, server space and the printing of flyers to promote Long Play. For the obligatory launch party, even the drinks were sponsored. "There was a lot of goodwill behind the creation of Long Play," admits Vehkoo. Because the start-up team was comprised of journalists, they didn't have to pay any upfront money for content creation.
Long Play's books are prestigious and editorially ambitious. The first e-book single Long Play published was about international soccer corruption in Finnish Lapland. The story features intrigue, an exotic location, snow and reindeer, according to Vehkoo. Long Play's second release, about a Finnish political scandal, became the company's all-time best-seller notching more than 4,000 units sold. For a country with only slightly more than five million residents, that's an impressive figure. Long Play has also published works about human trafficking in Finland and conspiracy theorists. The company has a partnership with Danish e-book single publisher Zetland and they are beginning to sell each other's stories.
While it seems clear that Long Play has not experienced a financial bonanza, the revenue is nonetheless trickling in. The company's e-book singles are priced at roughly $5 each -- with the government taking a whopping 24 percent. Long Play also has a membership model with members paying $70 a year. It's basically like a book-of-the-month club for the cost of about two cups of coffee a month. Long Play also offers writing courses for journalists as a way to drive more revenue.