Digital tapas: Six Spanish start-ups

Digital tapas: Six Spanish start-ups

Editor's note: With Justo Hidalgo's Madrid-based 24symbols recently in the news for its partnership with Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook initiative, we probably can confer on that mobile subscription service the honour of being what one publishing observer calls a "done-started-up" corporate member of our digital community. So we're very pleased to have from The Bookseller's deputy editor Benedicte Page (pictured) this sunny collection of six other Spanish start-ups offering everything from "a bridge between the hard copy and digital copy of a book" to a video-content discovery and recommendation service. Gràcies, Ben. - Porter Anderson


BTwinBooks sees itself as offering a bridge between the hard copy and digital copy of a book. A unique QR code within each printed volume unlocks a twin digital volume, with multi-platform access. The digital copy can be lent to another person, but if that happens the original digital copy will cease to be accessible, giving publishers control over reader numbers. E-books are socialised via, a Spanish language community with a global audience of 800,000 readers.

Meanwhile analytics feed back information on the type of device used for digital reading and behavioural information about the readers, with the ability to tell in real time who is connected, and to aggregate data. The twin print/e-book volumes mean a "slight increase" in the price of the book, but with "huge" added value, according to spokesperson Unai Labirua.


Seebook, created by writer Rosa Sala Rose, bills itself as offering the "tangible e-book". Attractive, artist-designed cards carry a QR code through which you can download a personalised e-book. The cards can be stocked in bricks and mortar stores, and have been carried in Spanish bookshops since November, with early sales results described as "very promising."

The cards are suitable for gift-giving, and are designed to be kept, and potentially taken to author events for signing. They can also be used to sell e-books at digital-only author events. Seebook is device agnostic and e-books can be downloaded in any format. They also carry extra features, such as audio from the author.

Publishers are able to access data about the downloads – when and where they take place, and which format is preferred – and to get in touch with buyers via email marketing. Seebook cards are now also being sold in Argentina, and the venture is considering expansion beyond Spain in Europe too.


The five-year-old global non-profit aiming to combat illiteracy by delivering digital books around the world started out from Barcelona, and now also has offices in San Francisco, Accra and Nairobi. It has built up a collection of "culturally relevant" e-books, which can be read on the Kindle e-reader but also the simple feature phones in widespread use in Africa and elsewhere.

It has over 15,000 e-book titles in 44 languages: most are in English, some French, and others in local languages such as Twi and Swahili. Seventy per cent of the content is from African and Indian publishers; international publishers also donate content.

Worldreader has had two million readers since 2010, with on average 185,000 people reading each month in over 50 countries. Its aim is to reach 15 million readers via mobile phones. It also has e-reader programmes in 11 different countries in sub-Saharan Africa, some in classrooms and some with a library model. Worldreader was founded by ex-Amazon executive David Risher and Colin McElwee.

The Spanish Digital Link

Billing itself as "e-books without frontiers", The Spanish Digital Link translates books into Spanish and gives advice on pricing and promotion in Spain, offering local partnership for those who wish to enter the market.

Services including translation into Spanish and other languages, copy-editing, proofreading, digital conversion via Spanish suppliers, metadata, distribution and sales, PR, including with Spanish-language bloggers, and promotions. 


Manuscritics offers a book recommendation service for publishers, "bringing readers to the front of the value chain, with a community of expert readers in each genre," according to c.e.o. Pepe Verdes.

Manuscripts are collected from literary agents and writers and given to readers, whose opinions are canvassed, with data then given to publishers.

Manuscritics launched in July 2014 and now has 100 readers reading daily, and has generated 40 book reports with three publication contracts signed. Manuscritics takes a percentage of the revenue made by the publisher.

"Many writers [in Spain] don't have literary agents so it is an opportunity for us," says Verdes. "We don't pay [our reader] community, we don't want professional readers, but we spend money on them, inviting them to presentations and giving them books."  


Five hundred thousand new books are published each year in the Spanish language market, but only 1% have a promotional budget, according to Vivlios founder Gabriel Pena-Ballesté. Launching in March, Vivlios will offer a video platform where writers, publishers and readers can discover, share and recommend books at low cost through video content.

For publishers, and self-published authors with books to promote, Vivlios will show videos to a segmented audience, with an interactive platform holding participatory contests and offering social network sharing.

Promoters pay 10 cents for each play of their video, chargeable when it has been played for more than 10 seconds. 


Main image - Shutterstock: Mihai-Bogdan Lazar