LoveReading unveils expansion under new owners

LoveReading unveils expansion under new owners

Book recommendation website LoveReading has unveiled a raft of changes including an interactive 'kids zone', a specific review facility for self-published authors, a podcast series and plans to link to high street shops.

A year on since saving the book recommendation site from closure, Huddersfield-based magazine publisher Gavin Pearson and web specialist Robert Prime are launching a new podcast series as well as an interactive kids zone, which will encourage children to engage with book content through games and quizzes.

The site fell into administration in June 2017, 12 years after originally launching, but Pearson and Prime injected it with a six-figure face-lift and now overall web traffic and engagement are up across the sites by 25% under its new ownership, Prime said.

It has also appointed a new m.d for the company, Deborah Maclaren. Prime revealed he had “swapped roles” with Maclaren, previously sales director, after realising his marketing expertise would be more relevant outside of the management role. “That is one of the biggest changes and she had been doing a great job,” he said.  The majority of Maclaren’s career has been in senior sales and board director roles within the media and publishing arena including a long stint at Future Publishing. 

Meanwhile Prime has revealed the website has launched a 'Bookshop of the Month' promotion and has plans to link to high street bookshops for customers to purchase titles, which they are  discussing with partner organisations such as the Booksellers Association.

“This likely will take place in the first quarter 2019 but we are working on ideas now,” he said. “Our two core missions as a business are to get behind local bookshops and to encourage the love of books, especially in children.”

The redesigned LoveReading4Kids site will launch this autumn featuring new sections and age ranges, to recognise the breadth of children’s literature. “We are also building in a Kids Zone which lets our content partners and publishers add in their quizzes, tools, games, activities and more with a view to engage kids, support and encourage their love of reading,” Prime said. “We will after that be working on a way to integrate LoveReading4Schools into this. We are actively looking for partners on this still and welcome any approaches.” There are already 7,500 schools signed up and Prime hopes that Love4Reading4Kids will host a web facility for the classroom enabling children to add their own book reviews.

Meanwhile the Audiobooks section of the website launched on Monday (6th August), first revealed by The Bookseller in January, with more than 70,000 titles and offering users two free books in a free trial. It was originally planned with Audible but is now run with audiobooks.com.

LoveReading has also recently launched a podcast for book recommendations, hosted by author and freelance editor Elena Lappin, who left Pushkin Press last year. Recent guests have included critic Lucy Scholes and Curtis Brown agent Jonny Geller. It came about after Lappin read about LoveReading in The Bookseller earlier this year and asked Prime if she could become involved.

A site specifically for self-published authors, LoveWriting.co.uk, has also been successfully piloted. It will go live next month as a platform “exclusively for self-published authors to get reviews and feedback for their books”. 

“We are on a mission to build key partnerships with organisations and institutions with similar goals,” Prime said. “We believe we have a social responsibility to engender a love of reading in children, and remind people why books are so important and help them find their next favourite book.”

He added: “We really encourage anyone in the industry to get in touch with us, we are excited by the business and keen to work in partnership with like minded bodies and companies, all for the good of reading.”

Established in 2005 to "capitalise on emerging digital technologies", LoveReading was originally funded by board members and their families. Its aim was to help publishers connect directly with book lovers and was led by director and co-founder Peter Crawshaw.

However it incurred losses year-on-year to the point of accumulated losses of £257,000 in 2013. Marginal profits then diminished the losses, it sought a buyer in May last year and in June 2017 IRL was appointed as administrator for the website, shortly before it was bought by Prime and Pearson.

Anyone interested in working with Lovereading should email rob@lovereading.co.uk.