Spanish start-up Interview: Roterbooks


Roterbooks is a cloud-based editing platform based in Spain. Roterbooks have kindly sponsored the past two BookMachine Barcelona events. Here we find out a little bit more about the platform.

1. What is Røter? Where did the idea come from?

Røter is a cloud based editing platform. The team call it an ‘editorial hub’ as it allows you to edit your content and then export it into any format. At the moment Røter has three versions:

Røter: The editing platform which includes many functions.
Røter LT: A simplified version which allows conversion of an entire list. This version will be the first to launch in open beta. We think that there is a great need for a reliable and cheap tool that publishers can use to convert their lists without having to outsource.
Røter ‘special projects‘: Offers tailor-made solutions oriented to institutions, groups or even companies. We hope to announce an interesting new collaboration soon.
Røter was conceptualized years ago. There was a little bit of serendipity in the creation of Røter. Albert Torrens and Ricardo González, Røter’s two major shareholders, developed a primitive version of the ‘editorial hub‘ three years ago in order to find a solution to the problem of editorial processes duplication that they witnessed in their own company. As they worked to tight schedules it was not only a matter of efficient economy but also, and more importantly, a matter of efficient timing: they needed to do more with the same resources. When they saw a gap in the market what started as a useful tool became a business project. The big software providers were already offering products to the big publishing houses at very high prices, but there was no such offer for independent publishers.

2. What is the current development phase of Røter ? What is the market’s first perception of it?

We are still in closed beta. We want to develop in a sensible manner in order to make the best of our resources. The public’s perception of Røter is good on paper and almost all the publishing professionals we talk to understand and positively value the project’s great potential. Some of them have started trying the product and we are receiving our first feedback. We are aware, as we get initial feedback, that this is a difficult phase, but we also feel that this is worthwhile because everybody wins. We are able to improve our product and our clients will be able to receive a more complete tool. We are also aware that we have only covered a small part of the way; we need the professionals’ experience in order to make Røter a really efficient tool.

3. When launching Røter, what surprised you? What did you not expect to happen?

Even though we knew not everything would be rosy, some of the criticisms did surprise us. Some referred to us as a ‘magic button‘, which is untrue. Røter is easy and intuitive to use, but that does not mean it is simple. Its easy usage is achieved by a grade of complexity. For example, it is necessary to know how to import the contents in order to avoid importing garbage code that may affect the final product. There must be an awareness that style sheets (CSS) are very important and that the better they are the better Røter will work. Creating new automatic solutions for publishers is a big job, we hope to be able to roll out more of these as we progress.
Some publishing houses say they will never edit in digital format and that surprises me. Obviously, a publishing house that makes handmade books will not think about digitizing as their products don’t need it, but the remaining ninety percent of publishing houses have to adapt and take advantage of different formats. We haven’t pulled it out from our hat, it really exists. It is a mistake to close the doors to any change by thinking it will not affect, in particular, a publishing house. It may be understandable in some ways but it’s a mistake after all. Røter is not a panacea but an industry reconversion tool and a solution to an existing necessity.

4. What is the present and near future of Røter? What innovations are you planning to introduce shortly?

Currently we plan to remain in closed beta and to continue working on adjusting the platform. It will not take long to open Røter LT, allowing conversion of title lists, with a special price. It will be a completely functional product but still in beta. We are also soon to announce a collaboration deal with an academic institution.
We want to introduce some innovations on output formats, input format reading and more running options. We will implement these innovations as we detect market demands and as the market accepts them. The most important challenge is to be able to communicate our proposal’s added value.

5. How do you see Røter in two years time? And in five?

If I put on my marketing hat I must say that in two year’s time we hope to be the software of reference in the independent publishing sector. It doesn‘t mean having the largest portion of the pie, as this is a very prudent sector when adopting new solutions, but to be seen as the best option among the industry for list conversion in independent publishing.
In the technological sector, even more in our ‘software as service‘ sector, time moves quickly. Two years ago, Uber was an anecdote for eccentrics and now it looks like it is capable of challenging as important a sector as the Taxi sector. In five years time, who will remember My Space? Ten years ago it would have been impossible to talk about Røter, as the digital era was only a visionary‘s dream. Something certain we can count on is ‘never say never‘. We’ve got a clear way and a medium-term vision but we also know that we must adapt to the unknown. A new technology, a great competitor, change in public taste, not to mention our own mistakes, can almost inevitably throw you out of the market.
Another thing we feel certain is that the publishing sector must face its industry reconversion sooner rather than later or the editing of books will fall in other players’ hands, players with less cultural baggage and less respect for more than five hundred years of cultural history. Røter can help publishers to continue to give added value to the book publishing world and we would like to continue the journey with them.

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