Jason Chen Talks About Digital Bundling And How StoryBundle Is Different

With StoryBundle doing their new Dynamite Graphic Novel bundle, I thought it would be a good idea to chat with StoryBundle's founder Jason Chen and find out just how the whole thing got started and how they differ from some of the other bundle programs that are out there.

BlackBat-OmnubusBleeding Cool: Let's start off with the obvious question, in your words… what is StoryBundle and how did it come to exist?

Jason Chen: StoryBundle is a place where you can get a tremendous amount of books for a price you set! We took the bundling concept and extended it to books, so readers can get a nicely curated collection of books that mesh coherently together. It doesn't matter if they like fantasy, sci-fi, romance, crime, horror, suspense or even comics, we've got bundles that will appeal to everybody.

I started StoryBundle when I wanted to discover new authors but realized that it's really difficult to do so! You can either spend your time scouring the top 100 ratings lists (which are questionable because you don't know who's buying or rating), or you wait for recommendations from your friends. What I wanted is to have a place where books are curated and hand-picked by people who KNOW books (in our case, authors), and put together in a coherent and enjoyable way. Couple that with the ability to name your own price and get them all DRM-free, delivered conveniently to any reader I have, that seemed like a pretty great opportunity to make a business!

BC: What makes StoryBundle different from other sites that have similar bundling options?

JC: We pride ourselves on a few things that we've had from the start. First is the curational aspect. We have authors (both indie and high profile/bestselling/award-winning) curate the bundles so that the books all make sense as a bundle. What we don't want to do is just have a mishmash of books of all different genres from a couple authors' backlist, because there's no guaranteeing that someone who likes fantasy novels will like historical literature, or horror, romance! All our bundles are chosen so that if you like one or two books in a bundle, you're more than likely to enjoy the others as well.

DarkShadows01-CovAnother of our core ideas is to keep the books DRM-free. All of our books have no DRM, which means that you can read it on any device you have, whether it's a Kindle, a Nook, a tablet, a smartphone, a laptop or anything else you have. That also means that you can buy a book now, and if you decide you want to change your ereader, you won't feel tethered to your choice in device! All our books will work on your future readers.

Our readers also tell us that they enjoy being able to have our books delivered directly to their Amazon account, and they like that they can support one of a few charities whenever they purchase.

BC: What made you decide to go with the charity aspect of the bundles and how does it work? Who chooses which charities get helped out?

JC: We love having the charity aspect because with each purchase, our readers can help support quality writing in the future. Our two main charities are Girls Write Now (a cause that helps girls develop their writing skills and careers) and Mighty Writers (one that helps kids learn the skill of writing, which is useful no matter what they decide to do in their future). We also feature charities special for individual bundles, such as SpecialEffect (one that helps disabled gamers) for our gaming bundles, the Comic Book Legal Defense fund for our comic bundles, the Challenger Learning center for our sci-fi bundles, and much more.

We work with our curators to figure out if there's a special charity that's right for each bundle, and we've found that people tend to donate when they have a charity that's close to their hearts.

BC: Before starting StoryBundle, you worked as an editor for Gizmodo.com and Lifehacker.com. How did your experience covering technology lead you to wanting to found your own startup company involving digital books and comics?

JC: My time covering technology and software made me realize that people want to read, but it's tough to discover WHAT books to read. Plus, they want their books delivered conveniently, DRM-free, and if you can give them a deal, that's even better. All these concepts go into StoryBundle, and our readers have responded well to it.

Vampirella(2010series)01-covWith comics, it's nice to have single issues, but from what I've seen, most comics are hard to follow if you're jumping in from the middle. What we're trying to do with Dynamite is to offer omnibuses and the first few issues of stories so that you can get a running start into all these series for a pretty reasonable price. If you decide you want to get more comics to continue with the storyline, you're free to grab that wherever those comics are sold.

BC: You're original focus seemed to be on indie authors, what made you decide to start working with comic book publishers? Was this part of your original plan or something that came about naturally?

JC: Working with comic book publishers came about naturally as we've been trying to get comic books on the site for a while. I've felt that comics are an interesting medium that's parallel to books, but the indie comic scene isn't quite as established as the indie novel scene. This means it's more difficult to compile a comic bundle of pure indie comics, which lends us to working with publishers who've got a larger stable of comics to work with. We'd still love to feature more indie comics in our bundles as well!

BC: What do you see as the future of StoryBundle? What else would you like to see included in future bundles?

JC: I think comics are a step forward in what we want to do. We started off with books, and now we're doing comics, so you can imagine what other types of media we want! (Spoiler: Audiobooks.) I want StoryBundle to live up to its name, meaning whatever way you can consume stories, we'll be there to deliver it to you. In bundle form of course. :)

About Dan Wickline

Has quietly been working at Bleeding Cool for over three years. He has written comics for Image, Top Cow, Shadowline, Avatar, IDW, Dynamite, Moonstone, Humanoids and Zenescope. He is the author of the Lucius Fogg series of novels and a published photographer.