Safari Books Buys Threepress, Forges Ahead In Digital Publishing Jungle

1/9/12Follow @gthuang

What is the future of electronic books and digital publishing in Boston? We might be getting a glimpse of it today.

The news is that Safari Books Online, a joint venture between O’Reilly Media and Pearson Education, is acquiring Threepress, a Boston-area software and consulting shop specializing in tools for digital publishing. Terms of the deal haven’t been announced, but it’s probably fairly modest in size.

What makes it interesting is that it’s a story of homegrown, bootstrapped talent in a burgeoning field—e-book reading and publishing—that has finally come of age.

Safari (not to be confused with the Apple browser) provides an on-demand digital library of thousands of books and videos on software, IT, professional development, and other techie and business topics. The 10-year-old company, which has just under 100 employees, is headquartered in Sebastopol, CA. But it started in Boston, and some of its leadership team, including CEO Andrew Savikas, is based here.

As part of the Threepress acquisition, Safari is planning to move into a new office space in Boston that will have about 10 employees. “We are looking at space with room to grow,” says Savikas, an O’Reilly Media veteran. “I expect we’ll be hiring in Boston, especially on the technology side.”

Threepress is a profitable, four-person tech shop founded by Web developer Liza Daly in 2008. Daly previously worked at Digitas and iFactory, and she originally started Threepress to do consulting and build tools for academic publishers and websites. As is often the case for startups, she found an unexpected niche. [Disclosure: Daly is married to Dan Schmidt, my longtime Honest Bob bandmate.]

Daly entered the e-book world by writing Bookworm, an open-source, browser-based reading system for e-books using the EPUB format. At first, she saw books as just part of the content of academic websites. But her work got the attention of Savikas at O’Reilly Media, which decided to host Bookworm on its site in 2009. That year Savikas also recruited Daly to speak at a big … Next Page »

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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