What the world needs now is....
- An aggregator of a book lover's print and digital bookshelves?
- "The YouTube of storytelling"?
- A curated marketplace for publishing professionals?
You tell us in #FutureChat today.
Those are some of the FutureBook BookTech Awards that journalist Molly Flatt has been profiling for weeks here at The FutureBook.
On 4th December at London's Mermaid, they'll be at our FutureBook 2015 Conference (and we hope you will be, too), vying for the inaugural prize named for what they do, and you can hash it #BookTech: they bring something about tech to bear on something about books.
Perhaps it's safer to say it that way than to use that tired cliché about about "the intersection of books and tech," because that's a streetcorner on which an awful lot of companies get run over. Don't believe me? Rest your eyes on the eight-page single-spaced Google Doc on which Canelo's Michael Bhaskar has kept a running list of publishing-related startups. Indeed, most of the outfits we're talking about today aren't on the list, they're that new to the party.
Flatt has written well to the purpose of the BookTech Award's development, and it's hardly just to make a nice new company's folks feel good. She writes:
Our long-term aim for BookTech is to give publishing professionals a head start on disruption coming their way, whilst also hopefully inspiring them to take some bold imaginative leaps of their own, it represents an encouraging start.
Our current gang of eight (there are two more to come in Flatt's profile series) does include at least one old-timer. Reedsy is in the class now that I like to call (and no one else does) a "done started up." Maybe I'm just jealous that publishing startups are allowed to keep "starting up," somehow, while the rest of us aren't granted such extended youth. When do they cross the line into some sort of corporate adulthood? A year? Two years?
Some of the most interesting features of many of these incorporated dreams, of course, have to do with their finances. For example, Gojimo—which Flatt profiles for us this week—has attracted more than $1 million in seed money and is rated 4.5 in the App Store by more than 1,000 students who presumably are using it to prep for exams. And yet, Gojimo founder George Burgess tells us, "Now that we've built a killer product that students love, the next, and hardest, problem for us to tackle is how we monetise."
Isn't that a remarkable thing? Something that big, that apparently successful, and it's not monetised. Forget "will they come"? The question for these ventures is, "Even if you build it well, will they pay for it?"
Today in #FutureChat, Flatt will join us, as well as many of our BookTech contenders' chief officers as can break away, to talk about what they're doing. You can ask them questions and find out more about what they're doing and why.
Here are the folks we anticipate joining us, and the Twitter handles they'll use. (Normally we ask everyone to tweet as people, not they're company names, in the chat, but with this many of our fine #BookTech chiefs running around, company handles will work just fine.)
- Johnny Bennett of ooovre: @ooovre
- Chris Smith of Write Track: @write_track
- Emmanuel Kolade of Shulph: @ekolade
- Emmanuel Nataf of Reedsy: @ReedsyHQ
- Michel Lawrence of The Owl Field: @owlfield
- Evan Jones of Together Tales: @togethertales
This link will take you to the whole group of stories on them, lots of interesting reading.
And in #FutureChat, you can even ask them: "What on Earth does your company's name mean?"
- 4:00 p.m. London (GMT)
- 5:00 p.m. Rome (CEST)
- 11:00 a.m. New York (ET)
- 10:00 a.m. Chicago (CT)
- 8:00 a.m. Los Angeles (PT)
What's in a name? (What isn't?)
When oolipo goes head-to-head with ooovre (yes, three o's) and when Shulph gets shuffled in with Gojimo (which is not a fast-food sushi consortium), you have to wonder if the publishing startup we really need most today isn't the one called HowToNameACompany.com. A name like Reedsy in a reading industry looks like a typo (it's not, they swear that). The Owl Field has little to do with aviaries or birds. Let's hope there's some wisdom implied.
Fanciful, whimsical, often cutesy names have been the vogue for several years in publishing-startup monikers. I blame it all on Andrew Rhomberg, as the poor man knows, with Jellybooks. More seriously, I also worry that it suggests an industry that thinks of its audience as sentimentalist dimwits who see cat pictures as currency and literature as inextricably bound up with cupcakes. Are we really complimenting them when we ask them to "be a buzzer for Libboo"?
Outvoted long ago, of course, I watch as Porter's Parade of Peculiarly Named Startups grows only longer. And especially in such a field littered by fallen logos (startups that are now brokedowns), I wonder if it might not make more sense to tell people what you are in your name?
Flatt makes it clear that when these good efforts come to us at FutureBook 2015 on the 4th of December, however fun or funny their names, they'll get a good hard look as part of the selection process for the award:
Whether any of our finalists will survive to fulfill their promise, of course, is another story. That’s why we’re going to subject them to a vigorous grilling at the FutureBook conference in December, with questions coming from a prestigious panel of experts - Unbound Co-Founder Dan Kieran, Digital Director at Penguin Random House Hannah Tefler and one of London’s most influential tech VCs, Eileen Burbidge - as well as our assembled industry audience. The eventual winner will have to demonstrate commercial smarts and a viable plan for growth, not just a crowd-pleasing concept.
The good news is that there were 31 submissions for the new BookTech award (imagine the names that got away) and the field was so impressive that a planned seven contenders became eight. Flatt lauds the "freshness in their creativity, clarity in their vision, and sophistication in their approach." On that we all can agree.
And, hey, what do I know? People still ask me what "Kobo" means. Do you know? It's the word "book," cutesified. There's hope for every Jellybooks out there.
See you in #FutureChat.
Join us for #FutureChat each Friday live on Twitter at 4:00 p.m. London (GMT), 5:00 p.m. Rome (CEST), 11 a.m. New York (ET), 10:00 a.m. Chicago (CT), 9:00 a.m. Denver (MT), 8:00 a.m. Los Angeles (PT), 5:00 a.m. Honolulu (HAST).
Conference update: We expect to close Author Day bookings Monday. Hurry to secure one of our last seats for 30th November at 30 Euston Square. Be with us at The Bookseller's inaugural Author Day (#AuthorDay), the kick-off to a big week of #FutureBook15 events. More about Author Day. Booking for our special pitching, networking, and advice sessions is available by email via Sandra Williamson (email@example.com).
- And join us for our 4th December FutureBook 2015 Conference at The Mermaid in London, the fifth annual iteration of the event. Please be sure to see our new digitally readable (YUDU) preview and programme with articles, background and full detail on the event.
The BookTech Showcase (#BookTech) is a new element of the FutureBook Conference. Hosted by tech and culture journalist Molly Flatt, the session invites eight book tech companies to take part in a live pitch-off for a panel of industry and tech experts. A real-time vote will then determine the winners of the bronze, silver and gold FutureBook Awards. The overall winner will be named The FutureBook BookTech Company of the Year 2015.
The judges of the showcase, who will interrogate attendees from the selected book tech companies, are Hannah Telfer, Group Director of Consumer and Digital Development at Penguin Random House UK; Dan Kieran, CEO and Co-Founder of Unbound; and Eileen Burbidge, Partner at Passion Capital and one of the UK’s most influential tech venture capitalists.
In Molly Flatt's series on the contenders (in order of publication):
- BookTech Showcase: Where book and tech come together
- BookTech Showcase: oolipo
- BookTech Showcase: Shulph
- BookTech Showcase: Reedsy
- BookTech Showcase: The Owl Field
- BookTech Showcase: ooovre
- BookTech Showcase: Gojimo
Main image - iStockphoto: wujekjery