Not unlike the social writing-and-reading platform of Allen Lau's Wattpad, the Melbourne-based Tablo positions itself as an online site at which you can "create, publish, and discover new books." Its founder, Ash Davies, has been honoured several times as one of Australia's younger entrepreneurs. He says that more than 130 countries are represented in Tablo's membership, producing more than 1 million words daily on the platform. The latest development at Tablo is called Tablo Scholar. And at about the time Jellybooks' Andrew Rhomberg was in New York talking about reader analytics at the IDPF Digital Book Conference, Davies was launching Scholar as a way "to learn more than ever about your readers." We put a few questions to Davies about the new initiative, which is, as it turns out, a monetising play: There is a Tablo Scribe subscription for AUS$7 each month, and the Tablo Scholar subscription for AUS$15 per month, which, he says, "lets us inaugurate customers by sending them hats": mortarboards. -- Porter Anderson
FutureBook: Ash, tell us about your company's and the new initiative's names.
Ash Davies: Tablo is a place where authors can publish books and connect with a large community of readers. It’s similar to the social platforms YouTube or SoundCloud, but for books. We’re helping authors publish to a global audience, and helping readers discover the best emerging writers in every genre.
Our new product is called Tablo Scholar and it’s an analytics platform that helps authors understand how readers engage with their books. If an author publishes a book on Tablo, he or she can now gain insights like what chapters readers love the most, where their readers typically stop reading, and the demographics of their most engaged readers.
Originally we were going call the product a simple Tablo "Plus" or "Pro", because it’s a typical power-extension to the otherwise free Tablo. Instead we landed on Tablo Scholar. It’s a nod to writers, and it lets us inaugurate customers by mailing them hats.
FutureBook: What need is the Scholar subscription meant to answer?
Davies: In the past, authors were blind to the way people read their books. Despite the surge of ebooks, there are still no publicly accessible platforms that help authors understand their reader’s behaviour. Analytics are reserved for big publishers, but every author should be able to learn about their readers.
Tablo Scholar is for independent authors. It’s the first time independent authors have had access to these kinds of insights and we expect it to transform the way authors market and edit their writing.
Tablo Scholar is live today, and the response has been extremely strong.
FutureBook: How you plan to evaluate the results?
Davies: We’re measuring the response through the number of upgrades and their retention. Interestingly, the launch of Scholar has brought more high-profile authors onto Tablo. We’re seeing the average number of reads shoot up. It seems to be a product that attracts authors who are serious about their writing.
FutureBook: Is Tablo's funding where you'd like it to be?
Davies: Tablo raised a round of funding in mid 2014. The round was led by Paul Reining of CatchOfTheDay, with investors including Y Combinator partner Kevin Hale, and John Buck — one of our most successful authors who reinvested his earnings back into the company. We’re doing pretty well right now and have no plans to raise in the near future.
FutureBook: And why now for the roll-out of Scholar?
Davies: Our goal has always been to democratise publishing and help authors connect with their readers. This is important. Traditional publishing companies exist to put an author in front of readers. They’re the gatekeepers between an author and the reader, and they’re becoming a lot less relevant.
With a product like Tablo, any author can publish a book, connect with readers and build their own following. Tablo Scholar puts powerful tools in the hands of every author. It brings them closer than ever to their readers and helps them become even better writers. We think it’s going to transform the industry.
Ash Davies is the CEO at Tablo. He’s a 22-year-old author from Australia who once struggled to publish his book. Davies founded Tablo in 2013.