History books with Wikipedia built in? Instant social media sharing of quotes? Korean startup Buk.io is betting big on deep hyperlinks.
Buk.io (pronounced book) is a platform that lets readers buy digital versions of books, then create deep links (permanent URLs) out of any content they highlight in the books they purchase on the platform. The highlighted quotes can then be used in blogs posts, documents or shared immediately on social media.
Buk.io currently provides over 50,000 public domain and paid books, all with the ability to search Wikipedia without having to leave the platform. Publishers and authors can upload e-books for free and make them available at any price point either in a browser or a mobile app, receiving 70% of the proceeds, with 30% going to Buk.
Buk is free to use and available on the web, as well as complimentary apps in the App Store and Google Play. It covers all devices, including Chrome Books.
Minsu Kang is the c.e.o and Founder of Buk.io, based in Seoul and with a satellite office in Palo Alto, California. Prior to founding Buk, Kang was the c.e.o/president and software architect at Netsco Inc., an app development company where he created mobile history apps. It was here that he first developed the "deep hyperlinks” that interlink between web and e-books - what would become the beginning of the Buk platform.
A self-declared "history junky, Wikipedia advocate and avid book reader", Kang initially developed the prototype of Buk platform six years ago at a Starbucks near his home.
What's the gap in the market?
Wang believes that Buk provides a way for readers to break out of their reading bubbles, and use the web to broaden, rather than narrow, their reading habits.
"Books are kind of like islands separated from other content, particularly content that is found on the web," he says. "This makes them hard to discover, and usually means that readers tend to follow their own interests more readily, as opposed to getting exposed to books that might not normally come across their radars. I felt that by developing Buk, I could help to bridge this gap – bringing books online while making them discoverable and sharable on social media platforms, as well as offer a new marketing avenue for independent publishers and authors."
Success so far?
Initially launched in beta in March 2016, Buk now works with 260 publishers provides 50K+ books with Wikipedia integration. Partners include a few small, independent presses based in the UK such as The Endless Bookcase, Help for Writers, Darf Publishers and Ken Wilson-Max.
"I anticipate further growth in both the UK and the U.S. in 2018, as more independent authors discover the platform and use it to socially market their books," Wang says.
"Independent authors who write and publish books by themselves are key audiences and would gain the most benefits by using the platform," Wang says. "However, the challenge I have found is that they are usually not IT friendly and/or tech savvy, so the idea of posting their own e-books to the platform initially seems intimidating. The platform, however, is very simple to use. All they have to do is upload ePub files and set up prices for their books. Then they are ready to go with all the user friendly default settings."
Wang dreams of eventually developing a Wikipedia-like book content hub where readers can start from one book and dive from there into another, jumping seamlessly from one book to the next.
Advice to other publishing entrepreneurs?
"I’m not in a position to give an advice, but I will say this – never underestimate the power of a Starbucks to get your entrepreneurial juices flowing!"