O’Reilly purchases Pearson’s stake in Safari

Safari Books Online is now a wholly owned subsidiary of O’Reilly Media.

I’m pleased to share some exciting news. On Friday, August 1st, O’Reilly purchased Pearson Education’s 50% ownership share of our Safari Books Online joint venture, and Safari is now a wholly owned subsidiary of O’Reilly Media, Inc.

O’Reilly believes strongly in the direction Safari is heading, and we came to believe that there are substantial opportunities for both organizations working much more closely together. O’Reilly is primarily a media company (books, events, online in-person and video training, expert network), and Safari has the technology, sales, and distribution channel for bringing content to the widest audience possible, especially a B2B audience.

Going forward, O’Reilly and Safari will work together to create new features and products, but Safari will continue to operate as an independent entity, as it did when jointly owned by O’Reilly and Pearson. There are no changes in Safari’s products, staffing, offices, or operations. The Safari brand and domains remain the same, and Pearson will remain a key strategic content partner of Safari. All their current materials remain available, and their future books and videos will be added to the service.

Safari is a tremendous success story. O’Reilly launched the initial Safari service in July 2000, then re-launched it as a joint venture with the Pearson Technology Group in October, 2001, with a grand total of 600 titles from O’Reilly and Pearson imprints.

We had been working for years to get publishers to pay attention to ebooks (we published our first one in 1987!), and while there were some ebook subscription services starting up, they offered terrible terms to publishers. I recall that when I did the math for one of them, they were offering about 6 cents per book to publishers, which we were then expected to share with our authors. Their model was book clubs, which promised exposure rather than dollars. But I believed (and turned out to be right) that ebooks were eventually going to be the main event rather than a sideshow, and that if publishers and the authors they serve were going to survive when that happened, they had to have better economics and more control over the channel.

Safari was originally an O’Reilly-only service, but I had this seemingly crazy idea that we should invite Pearson (at the time, our biggest competitor) into the service, as a first step to getting other technology publishers on board with what we hoped would become an industry platform.

I also really believed in the subscription model. While O’Reilly had launched GNN, the first ever ad-supported website, in 1993, and the rest of the online world had gone wild about the advertising model for online content, I had the conviction that the full gamut of business models that we saw in print publishing would eventually flourish for online content. I wrote about this idea in 1995, in a piece called Publishing Models for Internet Commerce.

Today, Safari offers over 25,000 books and more than 10,000 hours of video training, including both video courses and conference videos, from more than 200 publishers and other content providers. It’s an unparalleled resource for self-guided learning. It has over 1,000,000 active users via both its consumer offering and at over 10,000 corporate and government customers, including not just computer industry giants like Amazon, Google, Netflix, Tesla, Rackspace, Ebay, Cisco, Symantec, Oracle, and LinkedIn, but also over a third of the Fortune 500, including nearly every major technology, financial services, and defense manufacturing firm, as well as many government agencies.

And, as of July 8, Safari has a brand-new design and interface. As Safari CEO (and O’Reilly alumnus) Andrew Savikas noted in his blog post announcing the new interface, it is focused on making it easier to “learn something new or find something interesting to read and watch, suggested … in the kind of continuous stream we’re all now familiar with from Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.” Take a look. If you don’t have a current account, sign up for a trial. (It’s free, no credit card needed.)

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