Publishing technology company Next Big Book has won the first-ever Book Expo Challenge at Book Expo America 2014, netting a $10,000 prize and the chance to present to venture capitalists and publishing execs. Next Big Books “analyzes social, sales, and marketing signals to help you make smarter, braver decisions.” Next Big Book aims to help out the publishing industry thus:

Digital publishing and social media have added exponentially to the intricacy of an industry already complicated by tens of thousands of authors and millions of titles spanning dozens of genres and formats. Our monitoring and analysis tools will help you make sense of it all while saving time, providing invaluable insights that will give you the edge in your rapidly-changing industry.

I have one issue with this award though. The Eligibility line on the Challenge website states one criterion only: “Early stage startups in the publishing space.” Now, Next Big Book came to the party with a partnership with Macmillan already in its back pocket, based, according to a writeup in Forbes, on a relationship dating back some five years.

As Forbes‘ Zack O’Malley Greenburg describes it, Next Big Book is based on an existing ”well-funded startup” Next Big Sound, backed by the music industry. Its founders registered the Next Big Book domain name five years ago, aware that the publishing industry might also catch on. And the close cooperation with Macmillan dates back almost a year, after a former Sony exec involved in the early stages of Next Big Book jumped ship to the publisher. Hardly the image of a brave and brilliant New New Thing struggling to emerge from some staggeringly gifted geek’s garage. Music companies have apparently been flocking to Neilt Big Sound. It shouldn’t need much nous to deduce that Next Big Book might take off too.

Oh, and what does all this monitoring and analysis remind you of? Amazon’s sales parsing and recommendation engines, perhaps? Yes, once again, Big Publishing looks desperate to throw money at anyone it thinks can help win back ground it lost to Amazon. Good luck with that one, guys.


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