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ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, sees a new chapter in book publishing


After aggressively promoting its new lifestyle social media platform Lemon8 in the US, ByteDance appears to be brewing another content app for its largest overseas market.

Lemon Inc, a subsidiary of ByteDance, according to a submit filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The trademark, which is called “8TH NOTE PRESS”, offers an interesting insight into ByteDance’s apparent e-publishing ambitions.

The trademark application was earlier reported by Business Insider.

The list of products and services registered with 8TH NOTE PRESS includes a app to read, download and discuss fiction ebooks in an online community; bookstore retail; ordering books in audio, print and digital formats; publishing e-books, audio books and physical books; as well as providing online, non-downloadable fiction and non-fiction books.

Companies register trademarks all the time in anticipation of expanding into new industries in the future, but they don’t specify timelines or hold registrants to obligations, so moving to trademark 8TH NOTE PRESS doesn’t necessarily mean ByteDance is taking any material steps in the publishing world not yet.

But publishing and distributing books sounds like a logical next step for ByteDance, given TikTok’s success in attracting book lovers to share under the #BookTok hashtag on the short video platform. While ByteDance as a whole posted record profits last year, TikTok itself suffered ever-growing losses, the Financial Times reports. reported. ByteDance is probably eager to find new ways to monetize its hundreds of millions of users abroad.

The trademark is “not related to TikTok,” but ByteDance is “always looking for new opportunities,” according to a person knowledgeable. That’s to be expected, given the bite-sized nature of short videos doesn’t equate to long lectures requiring a longer attention span.

TechCrunch has reached out to ByteDance for comment.

It won’t be surprising to see ByteDance roll out a standalone book app where, as the trademark registration suggests, users can read, download, buy and talk about books.

While TikTok may not distribute books directly, it can certainly help drive users to the potential books app — as it has done for Lemon8 by recruiting influencers to promote the lifestyle-focused social media platform.

The mountain of user data and insights that TikTok has accumulated can be used to find out what people like to read, and the same types of content recommendation algorithms that suggest videos on TikTok can be used to introduce new books to read in a separate app.

If ByteDance ventures into e-publishing, the question is how it plans to compete with the industry giant, Amazon, in book publishing and distribution. And where it would fit into what has otherwise become a pretty fragmented market in the long tail.

There’s little data on online publishing and Amazon has never revealed much about the revenue from the operation and in cases where it does, it’s famously vague about these stats. Keeping track of all self-published books through Kindle is also an insurmountable task, not least because not all of them have their international identification numbers or ISBNs, as research group Wordsrated points out.

However, Amazon’s position as a popular publisher, distributor, and hardware player (through the Kindle) probably gives it too much of a place in that market. Industry expert Benedict Evans estimated in late 2019 that Amazon controlled “50% or more of the U.S. print book market and at least three-quarters of publisher e-book sales”.

ByteDance’s edge in books clearly lies in its sprawling social media empire where authors and fans can connect directly and readers can share their thoughts with others.

In fact, that role is still up for grabs. Amazon has come closest to fostering an online community for its readers by acquiring the social reading site GoodReads a decade ago.

GoodReads’ integration with other Amazon properties is limited at best, with WiFi-connected Kindle readers occasionally seeing GoodReads highlights and GoodReads making Kindle the default purchase option. But the 16-year-old book review site still seems to be thriving with 125 million “members” and 3.5 billion books cataloged. according to the company.

ByteDance is no stranger to e-books. In 2020, news broke that it would acquire about 11% of listed Chinese e-book reader Yuewen (the deal went through). It also runs one of China’s most popular web novel apps, Tomato Novel, which allows readers to read for free but with ads, or pay a monthly subscription fee for an ad-free experience. In 2021 it plodded in run an English web fiction app called Mytopia which included the romance, horror and fantasy genres. It handed out rewards to attract new writers, similar to giving money incentives to TikTok creators.

Before Mytopia had a chance to grow meaningfully, it was captured flak for launching erotica ads on Facebook and Instagram. 8TH NOTE PRESS should know better this time.

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