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New York, NY 10022
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Alta Editions is an award-winning publisher of beautiful online cookbooks. 

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Get recipes, tips, stories and more on the Alta Editions blog

Filtering by Author: Chris McBride

Why We Believe Cookbooks Belong Online, Not Just on Your Bookshelf

Chris McBride

Like a lot of people who enjoy cooking I have a cookbook collection that I love. Over the years I’ve filled my bookshelf with hundreds of cookbooks on a variety of topics ranging from Austrian cuisine to San Francisco’s beloved Zuni Café. Nestled among the classics and curiosities are chef-driven masterworks and epic compendiums. Some were gifts, but most were books I purchased because I was excited to read and cook from them.

How frequently do I pull any of these cookbooks off the shelf? Considering their value, not often enough. And I’m not alone. Most people I know only reference a handful of their cookbooks regularly, if at all. After the honeymoon phase when an exciting new cookbook is thoroughly leafed through and a few appealing dishes are chosen to cook and enjoy, most cookbooks go on to lead very lonely lives.

As all things print continue to migrate to digital, does this mean, as some have suggested, that print cookbooks are doomed to share the same fate as the eight-track? Not according to several leading cookbook publishers. Reports indicate that 2013 was a strong year for cookbook sales. San Francisco-based Chronicle Books even claimed that 2013 was one of its best years ever for cookbooks. Regrettably for publishers this continued success with print hasn’t yet translated to strong e-books sales.

The reasons might seem obvious. Paging through a beautifully designed cookbook dense with rich color photography is in many ways a superior experience to swiping through its Kindle or iBooks equivalent. A stack of well worn cookbooks near the kitchen lets you know you’re in the company of a serious cook. And as we’re reminded each holiday season print cookbooks make excellent gifts. For these and other often sentimental reasons it should come as no surprise that most book buyers continue to prefer print over e-book cookbooks.

From the 2013 Book Industry Study Group study, Consumer Attitudes Towards Ebook Reading

From the 2013 Book Industry Study Group study, Consumer Attitudes Towards Ebook Reading

For their part the major e-book formats do have some advantages over print cookbooks—they’re easy to carry around, they don’t take up shelf space and they’re searchable—but they also suffer from limitations. Dedicated e-readers like the Kindle Paperwhite are lousy kitchen companions and most Kindle Fire and Apple iBooks cookbooks look like PDF versions of the printed page. Most often they fail to take full advantage of the digital format, lacking interactive tips, step by step photos, video tutorials, and many other conveniences we take for granted on recipe websites, like browsing and searching for recipes across a collection. They’re also either literally or practically unusable on mobile.

So it should come as no surprise that nearly all cooks these days, both casual and serious, look to the internet for recipes and cooking instruction. The sheer convenience of having countless free recipes (many in fact cribbed from cookbooks) available on your computer, tablet and mobile phone is hard to compete with.

Source: Google Trends

Source: Google Trends

There’s no denying that software is eating the world. Things are just coming along a little more slowly in the cookbook business. When will the tide turn? The news may be rosy in some quarters, but it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Wiley, a leading global publisher, stopped publishing cookbooks last year and several other mid-market publishers have cut back on cookbook releases.

Unyielding pressure from Amazon coupled with declining bookstore sales and the continuing loss of shelf space will keep many cookbook publishers on the defensive. Given these factors, along with rapidly changing media habits, it’s not hard to imagine that print cookbook sales may have peaked, or soon will.

It is possible that Google, Amazon or Apple will commit to improving the user experience for digital cookbooks, but there’s little evidence of this happening today. So with weak sales of cookbook e-books and little sign of digital innovation from the major players, where does that leave the future of cookbooks?

At Alta Editions we believe the answer is online. The web represents a hugely exciting opportunity for cookbooks for two main reasons: control over design and accessibility. Simply put, the web allows digital cookbooks to be beautiful, accessible from any device, and easy to discover and share.

As an example, readers of our online cookbook, The Journey, can cook Alta chef author Alex Raij’s delicious Pollo en Adobo recipe using their iPad or PC in their kitchen or using their mobile phone at a friend’s house. Anyone can find Alex’s recipes by searching on Google or browsing on Pinterest. Love one of Alex’s recipes? Share it with your friends on Facebook or send Alex an @reply to let her know.

Even though the shift to digital is coming along more slowly with cookbooks than it has with other types of books, that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. A world with only expensive print cookbooks on one hand and ad-supported free recipe websites and apps on the other isn’t a foregone conclusion. We believe there’s a third way, one where beautiful, important cookbooks are published in print and online, where home cooks can interact with recipes and authors, and where authors and publishers are paid fairly for digital use of their creative works.

We’re working with a group of forward thinking cookbook publishers to bring you an exciting new online cookbook service this fall with unlimited access to hundreds of premium cookbooks. In the mean time we’re working hard to complete our most innovative online cookbook to date. Learn how you can help and find out about some great rewards on our “Unconventional” Kickstarter project page.

Unconventional and the Future of Cookbooks

Chris McBride

We're excited to announce that Alta Editions, which started as a small project at Fox Mobile Group (later becoming Jesta Digital and then Freenet Digital), is now an independent digital publishing company. The team that started Alta purchased the business from Freenet Digital earlier this summer and now we're more excited than ever to continue pioneering the future of digital cookbooks. 

We have big plans in the works for later in 2014, but there's one exciting project we want to share with you today. While we were still a part of Freenet Digital we were nearing completion of our fourth cookbook, Unconventional, when the project was cut short. We're bringing it back to life now and to help raise funds to complete the photo shoot and design and production we just launched a brand new Kickstarter campaign: Alta Editions: An Unconventional Cookbook.

Like our previous books Unconventional will feature delicious recipes and personal stories from a group of incredibly creative and talented chefs. We're proud to feature Jehangir Mehta (Graffiti, Mehtaphor), Jesse Schenker (Recette, The Gander) and Francisco Migoya (Modernist Cuisine) along with the photography of Evan Sung. As usual it will also include innovative features that help make cooking with your iPad or any other device convenient, interactive and fun.

Learn more about the project by watching the video below and make sure to check out the exciting rewards on our Unconventional project page on Kickstarter: http://kck.st/1oCOhQO.

We thank you for your continued support! 

Join Eat. See. Play. and Alta Editions for 2 Special Dinners with Chef Jesse Schenker

Chris McBride

We have some exciting news to share here at Alta Editions. We've partnered with CBS Local's Eat. See. Play. team to bring you a series of exclusive dinners featuring some of New York City's most talented and exciting chefs. We're kicking things off on Tuesday and Wednesday, September 23rd and 24th, with four-course dinners from chef Jesse Schenker at his acclaimed new Flatiron restaurant, The Gander.

We'll be featuring Jesse's recipes in the upcoming Alta Editions cookbook, Unconventional, and we can't wait to share them with you (when you try Jesse's recipe for Chicken Thighs Braised in Fennel Caramel you'll understand why!). Everyone who attends will receive a free annual subscription to the Alta Editions Cooking Series, which will give you access to Unconventional when it's released later this summer. We'll also be publishing a special mini-cookbook exclusively for this event. It will feature Jesse's recipes from the dinners so you can prepare them at home and really wow your friends at your next dinner party.

Don't miss out - buy your tickets today

When: Tuesday, September 23rd or Wednesday, September 24th 
Time: 6:30-10:30pm
Cost: $150 per person
 
What's included?  

  • Four courses
  • Four-hour wine & draft beer open bar, plus one signature cocktail made with Double Cross vodka
  • A 1-year subscription to Alta Editions digital cookbooks
  • A digital copy of the chef's recipes from the night of the event

Menu

  • Starter: Fluke Crudo w/pickled cucumber, trout roe & bernaise
  • Pasta: Cauliflower ravioli w/bisque, guanciale, mushrooms & bottarga
  • Main: Poached sea trout w/heirloom tomato butter, chorizo & crispy basil
  • Dessert: Banana parfait w/ caramel & toasted coconut

Location 
The Gander 
15 W 18th St. between 5th and 6th 
New York, NY 10011
212-229-9500

The Journey Wins the 2014 IACP E-Cookbook Award!

Chris McBride

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The International Association of Culinary Professionals hosted their annual conference in Chicago this weekend and announced the winners of its 2014 cookbook awards. We were thrilled and honored to be chosen as the winner of the brand new E-Cookbook category for The Journey! We faced stiff competition from two exceptional e-books: Indian Cooking Unfolded by Raghavan Iyer and Modernist Cuisine at Home by Nathan Myhrvold & Maxime Bilet.

We owe a huge thank you everyone who contributed to the planning, writing, editing, designing, building and promoting of The Journey, most of all our wonderfully talented authors Katy Sparks, Maneet Chauhan, Alex Raij, Rita Sodi and Kathleen Squires. A big thank you also to our editor, Deri Reed; The Journey photographer Penny De Los Santos; food stylist Liza Jernow; videographer Jennifer Usdan; copyeditor, Suzanne Fass; and the rest of the Alta Editions team: Joe Collins, Johnny Hernandez, Kim Santos, Anna Butler, Doris Tang, Michelle Kamerath, Sumin Chou, Gina Tirelli, Christoph Klärner, Julia Hornberg, Hendrik Dimter, Zhuzi Cui and Nurul Karim. 

You can view the complete list of 2014 IACP award winners on Eater.

Chris McBride,

Publisher, Alta Editions