There’s one word that links all the BookTech Company of the Year 2017 finalists, and it’s not technology. It’s reading.
Each of the six companies engages with the written word – grabbing the attention of children through immersive storytelling, connecting authors with readers, delivering books to your door, or sharing reading and writing with friends – to promote reading for life. Tech's a big part of their delivery, but it's definitely put in service to a strongly concevied vision, rather than being the star.
Looking at them together, a pleasing journey unfolds. These early stage startups engage children with stories, then keep young people and adults reading as much and as widely as possible, then deepen their passion by connecting them up to the authors who write them. And each company uses a different platform and choice of technology to engage, stimulate, and share a passion for storytelling at various points in the reader's lifetime. Here’s how they do it.
Authorfy is on a mission to create a literacy revolution that changes the way children’s authors connect to readers. Its online platform is designed to appeal to the YouTube generation by providing author generated online and video content supported by traditional book extracts and worksheets. It hopes to make reading and writing cool, and in turn, improve literacy rates, boost book sales, and help form a generation of avid readers and writers. We'll be writing a full profile on the company in coming weeks.
Imagine a mash-up of Horrible Histories and Pokémon Go and you have Time Traveler Tours. Bought to you by Griffindocs Media, the company designs and builds interactive story-driven experiences for young people. Its #TurnHistoryOn campaign uses the latest digital tools – like gamification and AR – delivered via by native app or conversational interfaces (chatbots) to bring history alive. Again, full profile to come.
Netherlands-based Sweek wants to stimulate reading and writing on a global scale. It offers a social reading and writing app that helps readers like, share, comment and follow stories as well as helping writers to reach out to their fans. Add in self-publishing and direct selling and it’s got all aspects of publishing covered – on mobile. Profile coming up.
Founded by online magazine editors Alice Revel and Caroline Finn, Reading in Heels is a monthly book box subscription that promotes female writers and female-founded brands. It marries books with a me-time experience and beauty/lifestyle products with the aim of encouraging people to switch their phones off and pick up a book more often. Reading in Heels has already been profiled in depth on FutureBook here.
American company The Hawaii Project LLC has created social reading app Bookship, which lets you share your reading experience with family, friends and co-workers. Aimed squarely at the Snapchat and Instagram generation it offers a mobile-first, camera-ready sharing experience within a chat interface. Read the longer FutureBook profile here.
Unrd is all about immersive fiction. Its first app, Last Seen Online, used multiple types of media to deliver content in real time. Taking place over 7 days this fictional chat story follows a missing girl and her family and friends as they discover what happened to her. With plans for a second unrd aim to scale their unique storytelling experience. Full profile here.
All eyes will be on this year’s finalists when they pitch their vision for their business live at FutureBook 2017 to an audience of future-thinking publishing professionals and a panel of top judges.
Last year’s winner, Chris Sim of Kadaxis, said pitching was an amazing experience as he received impartial critique from industry experts and insightful feedback from judges.
Though the companies go head to head in a competitive pitch off, Sim talked about the sense of camaraderie among the finalists, and described the experience as being an “excellent opportunity to network and compete with other publishing startups from around the world. I always feel grateful to an audience for listening to me speak. It's not often you get to share your company's story on a platform like the FutureBook Awards.”
Judging the pitches will be seasoned investor and startup advisor Paul Field - c.e.o. EMEA of TouchCast, a New York-based company whose ground-breaking video technologies are transforming communications for clients such as Accenture, WPP and the BBC.
He will be joined by Rebecca Smart, managing director of Ebury Publishing. Formerly c.e.o. of the Osprey Group, Smart has been hailed as "one of the publishing industry's leading thinkers" and "a hugely admired innovator" who won FutureBook's 2011 'most inspiring digital person' award.
Completing the panel is Asi Sharabi co-founder and c.e.o of Wonderbly. He started Lost My Name as a DIY project with some friends and created a funded tech and storytelling startup, which is a worldwide publishing success, and which won a FutureBook Award in 2014.
Who be crowned BookTech Company of the Year 2017 and lead the future of publishing alongside previous winners Reedsy and Kadaxis? Watch the six finalists pitch, put forward your own questions and join the judges and audience of publishing professionals at #FutureBook17.