Tag: Startups

Startup Snapshot: Squirl

Jef Van der Avoort is co-founder of Squirl, the first location-based book discovery app. Previously he helped brands like LEGO, Philips and Hasbro to create engaging experiences on the border between the analog and digital world.

1) What exactly is Squirl?

Squirl is a location-based book discovery app that lets you bump into the real-world settings from books (e.g. The Plaza Hotel in the Great Gatsby). You can read the excerpt that takes place right where you are standing and check in to the literary location. You may also click through to buy the book. In essence, we are building an augmented story layer on top of the world.

2) What problem does it solve?

Book discovery is the number one issue for authors and publishers. We want to level the playing field by turning the whole world into a bookstore. The places you pass by become portals into different worlds, no matter if it is from a book by a first-time indie author or a bestselling superstar. It is a new, engaging and serendipitous way to discover your next read.

3) Who is your target market?

The casual reader is very important to us. These are people who read 2 or 3 books a year and are mostly overlooked when it comes to publishing tech. Discovering new books is not on top of their list, but they are interested in stories that are relevant to them. Through this geographic relevance we can excite these readers to buy a book they might not have discovered in any other way.

4) What results do you hope to see over the next few years?

Our first tangible goal is to see a book rise to the New York Times bestseller list because it was discovered through Squirl. On a more macro-level, we would like authors and publishers to see Squirl next to social marketing platforms like Twitter and Goodreads.

5) What will be next for Squirl?

We are very excited with the positive reception we are receiving and we already have some Squirl fans. We are currently raising a seed round to build some great features and advance Squirl to continue to enhance the experience for both readers and authors.

Startup snapshot: Leanpub

len_eppLen Epp is a Co-Founder of Leanpub. He wrote a doctorate in English Literature before working as an investment banker in London, so enjoys wearing the seemingly contradictory hats of resident corporate finance and literary type person at Leanpub. We interviewed him about Leanpub here. 

1) What exactly is Leanpub?

Leanpub is a book writing platform combined with a bookstore that pays a royalty of 90% minus 50 cents per sale. Leanpub is primarily used by self-published authors, and also some small publishers. To suit the preferences of different types of authors, we’ve built Leanpub so that you can write books in Word, in the browser, or in plain text; or, if an author wants to upload an ebook they have made themselves, they can also upload their book in PDF, EPUB and/or MOBI format.

2) What problem does it solve?

One big problem that Leanpub solves is: How can you build an audience while you are writing your book?

Our answer is to publish your book before it is finished, and then add new chapters and publish new versions until you are done. Leanpub is built around this idea, which has many benefits both for authors and for readers; for example, it lets the author get feedback early, and build a loyal following of readers who can help her improve her book (and it’s also great for publishing serial fiction, of course).

3) Who is your target market?

Leanpub is currently most popular with authors of technical books, partly because our “Publish Early, Publish Often” model is especially valuable for people who are writing or reading about cutting-edge technologies that are subject to rapid change. However, our target market is actually all self-published or indie authors, and we are doing more to try to attract new types of authors, especially fiction authors. Personally, I would love to see people start publishing in-progress books that follow political events, like election campaigns.

4) What results do you hope to see over the next few years?

We hope to see our model of in-progress publishing catch on for both fiction and non-fiction books. It is very rewarding to build an early audience and it can help improve the quality of the final version of the book, which can of course be taken up by a conventional publisher when it is finished. Many of our authors also find this model inspires increased motivation to write, as you have readers out there waiting for the next chapter.

We expect that the next few years will bring a lot of growth in the market for self-published ebooks. In some quarters this is considered to be a controversial view; for my own views on the matter, please see my article ‘On The Dark Matter Of The Publishing Industry‘.

5) What will be next for Leanpub?

The next big thing for Leanpub is to work more on building community within the Leanpub platform. We want to encourage communication between authors and readers, and readers and readers. This will include lots of development work on our reading app (currently the app is available for iOS users, and we will be adding an Android app as well).

Startup snapshot: Books & Magic

Mark Folkenberg Portrait SquareMark Folkenberg is the Founder and CEO of Books & Magic. After years as a professional game developer, Mark and his team have spent the last three years developing their concept and first product.

1) What exactly is Books & Magic?

Books & Magic is a 6-person cocktail of creative minds handpicked from the computer game and book publishing industries, all with a common vision of creating a new genre for books. We are highly inspired by the classical fairy tales, and being located in Copenhagen, we decided to take on the original fairy tale of ‘The Little Mermaid’ by Hans Christian Andersen for our first book project.

Our magical augmented reality (AR) book visualises the universe within the text, directly on top of the pages of the book. Simply view the book through our app and the hidden universe is revealed right in front of you.

2) What problem does it solve?

We’ve managed to make the AR experience so convincing and meaningful that it feels like a magical experience. We capture the interest of children and adults by offering a way to actually explore the universe of the book. Fire cannons, unlocking chests or helping the little mermaid on her way are some of the hidden elements that the reader can find and engage with.

Intentionally, the app doesn’t tell the story – for that you would need to read the book. All the raised questions from exploring the universe and the curiosity of finding more hidden elements drives the player into becoming a reader in search of answers.

3) Who is your target market?

The story is the timeless original fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, and everyone aged 5+ can be entertained by our magical book. We’ve designed the games with 3 levels of increasing difficulty, so the youngest can play the game which is also challenging the older children.

The book and app can be used solo, each in their own right, however, when they’re used together, the magical book experience is a perfect way to increase the interest for the physical book as well as a great opportunity for parents and children to spend time together.

The product’s main target is parents or grandparents, who wish to share a great story and the original classic with the youngest, to use our digital universe to introduce them to the physical book and perhaps even open their eyes to the magic within the book universe.

4) What results do you hope to see over the next few years?

We hope to reach the most of the UK and the rest of the English speaking countries with the message about this new genre, to actually offer children an alternative and less passive use of their mobile devices.

We already offer online purchase and free world wide shipping, but we are very aware that a many parents and grandparents prefer to buy their books in the local bookstore. So we hope to be able to offer this in a broad range of countries during the next year or two.

5) What will be next for Books & Magic?

As a young company, Books & Magic is born out of the digital age. We are a highly creative and very technical company, much more than the average book publisher. We believe in the book format and our take on the digital age is not to dismantle the physical book, but to enhance it.

We embrace the physical separation of the book and the mobile devices and are already working on the next book in the series. A third classical fairy tale book is in the pipeline too. But, we also have something else on the drawing board that I won’t spoil here. You will all have to wait and see. 🙂

membership economy

The business of books: The lean author

Recently in The Extraordinary Business Book Club I interviewed Brant Cooper, author of The Lean Entrepreneur (Wiley, 2013). I’m a big fan of lean methodology, for digital products and service development but also as a mindset in general, and Brant is a great demonstration of how lean principles lend themselves to books at every stage:

‘I think that for authors it’s important to view their book endeavour as a startup… even back then [for his first book The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development with Patrick Vlaskovits in 2010] we were doing interviews based upon contacting early adapters and we knew our market segment really well. They were tech startups. We already had access to them and we called them on the phone, we met them in person and talked pricing. The lean entrepreneur was the same thing. By that time, I was travelling the world and doing workshops and speaking engagements and so I would test out content. I would test out frameworks and my methodology inside the workshops to try to figure out what resonated and how could I get entrepreneurs thinking along a particular way that I thought would expose their assumptions and allow them to develop experiments to test those assumptions. It really was being down there in my market segment, testing, running experiments, trying to figure out what was the right way to construct the next book.’

Although the book was published by Wiley, Brant and Patrick ran a crowdfunding campaign ahead of publication partly to provide a ‘war fund’ for marketing, but also to ‘test out the messaging’ and to create a body of engaged fans, ‘early evangelists’, to spread the word about the book because they had a stake in it.

The messaging, like the movement, goes beyond the book. Brant cited Brian Clark’s concept of the ‘entreproducer… producing in a variety of media in order to increase the market size’. This I believe is core to how business books work today, as part of a bigger platform that encompasses video, blogs, elearning, podcasts, a whole range of content types.

And when publishers understand this and support it – by allowing authors to use their content in other media, providing visuals, offering advice and resources for digital content creation and so on – they not only sell more books, they give authors a reason to continue working with them rather than defecting to the growing self-publishing service sector (where people like me are providing exactly those services). It means looking at the bigger picture, investing in the author not just the book and accepting that the brand benefits will be the author’s rather than the publisher’s. But the cost of NOT collaborating effectively in the digital marketing game could be unacceptably high.

Alison Jones (@bookstothesky) is a publishing partner for businesses and organizations writing world-changing books. She also provides executive coaching, consultancy and training services to publishers. www.alisonjones.com. 

Startup snapshot: Exact Editions

exact editionsHaving spent the past decade turning complex consumer magazines into their precise digital doppelgangers, Exact Editions launched their new digital books service in May. Here we interviewed Adam Hodgkin, Chairman and Co-Founder of Exact Editions

1) What exactly is Exact Editions?

Exact Editions is a platform for publishing and licensing content on the web and through apps to individuals and institutions. Exact Editions helps publishers by delivering services which generate subscriptions.

2) What problem does it solve?

Exact Editions 2The Exact Editions platform ensures that digital publications look exactly the same as their print sisters; and it does this in a way which is efficient for searching and sharing.

Exact Editions uses PDF files to build a database for each publication on the platform. The service delivers a solution that looks exactly like the book or magazine in print, but it is an access solution not a file delivery protocol. So the access management side of the business is at least as important as the content management side.

We also provide customer support and statistics to our users since cross-platform solutions for users that range in size from the largest universities to the private individual will, from time to time, present new questions.

3) Who is your target market?

Exact Editions 3Exact Editions launched by focusing on the consumer magazine space and selling subscriptions direct to consumers and through app stores. We were among the first magazine solutions to deliver apps for the iPhone and then for the iPad. Never neglecting our roots in the web.

In the last 5 years a growing sector for us is the university, college and library market. Also selling site licenses for corporates.

Exact Editions is unusual among digital magazine solutions in providing access to complete archives (we work with magazines that have archives that stretch back to the 19th century). A concern with archives leads us to support the librarians’ requirement for perpetual access.

4) What results do you hope to see over the next few years?

Exact EditionsOnce Exact Editions was selling some magazines for perpetual access, it was clear that there is demand for a similar service for books. The Exact Editions platform works well for book publishers that have complex and rich page designs that are poorly served by the most commonly used ebook file formats. But equally important the Exact Editions service offers publishers the opportunity to sell books with a perpetual access to institutions that need to have a multi-user, site license for the campus or organisation.

We launched our book service three weeks ago and it seems that the multi-user, site license access management that we provide for book publishers is an important offering. Book publishers also get to set the price level for their individual titles on the Exact Editions platform, and they have ownership of their subscriber lists.

5) What will be next for Exact Editions?

Exact Editions is a platform, not a publisher, so we are keen to work with as many publishers as can use our services. We are primarily aimed at the library and institutional market, at this point mainly universities and colleges, but we can already see that there is a good market among schools and corporates for many of the books and magazines which are using our platform. Opening up these broader markets is on our wish list. We also have some very successful French magazines and we would like to add books and magazines from all the major European languages.

bookmetrix logo

Startup snapshot: Bookmetrix

Martijn RoelandseMartijn Roelandse was a publishing editor at Bohn Stafleu van Loghum, a Dutch Springer subsidiary, and later for Springer. Since 2015 he has been working as Manager of Publishing Innovation to develop new projects. One of those is Bookmetrix, a platform developed by Springer and Altmetric that offers a comprehensive overview of the impact of a book.

1) What exactly is Bookmetrix?

Developed in partnership between Springer and Altmetric, Bookmetrix is the first platform of its kind to offer integrated traditional and non-traditional metrics for books and chapters. Designed to give authors, editors and readers easy access to this combined data all in one place for the first time, Bookmetrix helps to set a new standard for monitoring and reporting the activity surrounding a book post-publication. It’s picking up notice, too. It was announced as a finalist for the 2015 ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing and the 2016 Quantum Publishing Innovation Award.

2) What problem does it solve?

Up until recently, book authors and editors would be updated on an annual basis on the downloads of their ebook. As many books are not indexed in either Scopus or in Thomson Reuters Book Citation Index, authors knew very little about the impact and reach of their book. We think the story behind a book isn’t finished when it’s published; a book and chapters, like journal articles, are discussed both in the academic realm and in society. We therefore now offer book and chapter level metrics for all our 200,000+ books and 3,600,000+ chapters. For each one of them, if available, you can find citations, online mentions, Mendeley readers, downloads and reviews. If you are interested in the story behind Bookmetrix, do read this excellent blog post from Altmetric’s Jean Liu.

3) Who is your target market?

The scope of Bookmetrix is wider than existing initiatives in the market: it covers substantially more books and goes beyond pure citation data. Bookmetrix dovetails with Springer’s ambition to drive more industry-wide initiatives to support the work of authors and researchers.

4) What results do you hope to see over the next few years?

Ultimately we hope to solve two problems. First, recognition is needed for the work of authors of books and chapters, just like authors of articles. Especially in humanities and social sciences, publishing books is the modus operandi for communicating with peers, but they are often not included in research evaluations. Second, people should stop judging books by their covers. Bookmetrix helps readers identify the right book for them within a discipline, high-impact ones with many citations, very useful ones with many downloads, or ones that are highly discussed online with many mentions. The choice is theirs.

5) What will be next for Bookmetrix?

At The London Book Fair this year we launched a first pilot with another scholarly publisher, Brill, to offer Bookmetrix for their books. In addition, we will be adding new features and functionalities to Bookmetrix over the next few months, so stay tuned!

5 Questions for Tom Chalmers, Managing Director of IPR License [Interview]

Tom Chalmers, Managing Director of IPR License

Something we’ve heard a lot of lately is that publishers have to diversify the way they deal with copyright, a large part of which is selling or acquiring rights outside the traditional publishing channels of book fairs and trade shows. IPR License, set up by Tom Chalmers, is an up-and-coming British startup that facilitates just that, holding more than 13 million rights records in a database that interested parties can browse to purchase.

Launched in 2012, it has almost 50 publishers from six different countries already signed up (a sign that perhaps publishers aren’t so quick to dismiss startups with a good idea as many would believe) and is still growing globally at a rapid rate.

I caught up with the managing director, Tom Chalmers, to find out how it’s been doing so far and what’s in store for the future.

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(Another) Spotify For Books

Here’s how to alienate a large portion of possible content sources in one go: compare your product to their greatest fear. Perhaps Oyster didn’t call themselves the ‘Spotify for books’ in their pitch to publishers – I wasn’t at Frankfurt – but it’s certainly how they’ve been branded in the aftermath. And it doesn’t, as far as I can see, do them any favours.

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13 questions for: Alan Grierson (Bright Red Publishing)

Three years ago, Alan Grierson co-founded Bright Red Publishing, an Edinburgh based startup which creates educational resources for Scottish students and teachers.

 

The company is IPG Education Publisher of the Year for 2010 and 2011 and was nominated for Independent Publisher of the Year at this year’s Bookseller Industry Awards. In the first of our (irregular) series of 13 question interviews, Alan discusses the ‘wee gamble’ of setting up a new publishing company.

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