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Where Are They Now? Cutting edge digital developments that didn’t make it work.

Things have moved fast in publishing recently, there’s no doubt about that. It’s moved so fast in fact it’s easy to forget all those high-flying ideas we had at the start about things that would take off and just… well… haven’t. Here’s just a couple I’ve been reminded of recently. Like sands through the hourglass, these were the early days of our innovation.


Social Reading

Kobo Pulse. Readmill. Librarything. And so forth. All good ideas. They’re integrated with existing social media, they have nice interfaces, they allow a community to build around a book. So why haven’t I come across a single person using these on Twitter or Facebook?

When launched, Mashable called Kobo’s social book concept ‘fun’. They went on to say ‘It’s instantly gratifying to see how other people have reacted to specific passages as you’re reading them.’

Fun. Yes. Like a waterpark, it’s the kind of fun that decreases in direct proportion to the number of people you introduce to it. Sometimes laying an activity on top of a barely-submerged writhing mass of connected human brains does not increase its fun-ness. It might just be that reading is one of those things.


Harry Potter eBooks

Not exactly cutting edge, more totally necessary.  I think you can find the answer to all questions about this here. What’s that? It answered none of them? Huh…


Odyssey Editions

A protest taking digital form, this was the project of literary agent Andrew Wylie that was predicted to screw the Big 6 and revolutionise royalties for eBooks. It has now manifested itself as seven titles available exclusively for Kindle on a website that doesn’t look to have been updated since launch in 2010. The two-year Kindle exclusive contract will be up in July, I think, and then we will be able to buy these books for Kobo and stuff as well.

I would like to know what actually happened with Wylie’s dispute about royalties – there seems to be a serious lack of information on this. If anyone knows, do tell…


QR Codes

I am sort of surprised that these never took off more in digital marketing as some predicted. I think it might have been a matter of wrong time wrong place, because they’re not a totally terrible way of getting content. Put one of these bad boys in a book – or on the back of the book – take someone to a good landing page on your website or your author’s website. It makes sense.

I think QR codes are an example of a technology that’s about as resilient as a tissue in a hurricane. I could never make one work on my iPod touch and gave up. Maybe that’s the danger of using a technology that was around in 1994 on a device that was developed in 2011.


Domino Project

Brainchild of Seth Godin, who has recently caused a splash with his small and completely unjustified tantrum about Apple’s eBook policy, The Domino Project launched in 2010 as one of Amazon’s first ‘indie’ publishing ventures. The idea was, vaguely, to use word of mouth to create best sellers. Yes, word of mouth. Well, that and whatever massive leverage he could get from Amazon’s storefront and platforms.

After causing an initial stir and then a year of near-silence, Godin announced in November of last year that it wouldn’t be releasing any more books. The reason?

‘Projects are fun to start, but part of the deal is that they don’t last forever.’

…Right. Words publishers don’t live by.

Apps for Digital Publishing, Innovation, social reading


Felice Howden

Felice Howden had opinions before she knew what the word 'opinion' meant. She wrote for the publishing and ideas blog Socratic Ignorance Is Bliss, and has had short stories published around the place. She graduated from the University of Melbourne in 2008 with a degree in English and Philosophy, and now spends her time typing code and hatching brain eggs for the future of publishing in a major publishing house.

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