Because I write and consult at the intersection of publishing and technology, I am sometimes approached by digital publishing start-ups whose founders want to better understand how the industry works and may evolve. Almost all of them have good ideas, though they at times struggle to find a home within the traditional order.
I wanted to highlight five start-ups whose approaches I’ve found notable. They include:
The first, K.lab Berlin, develops web-based applications for the education sector. They have been disaggregating content provided by a range of German publishers to populate a subscription website whose content is purchased by teachers. The company’s approach potentially provides its publisher-clients with new insights about where, when and how teachers used published content.
Informerly works to make it easier for its readers to stay up to date on global ecommerce news. Technology is combined with an editorial approach to scour the internet for the latest news on ecommerce and retail innovation. A digest e-mail is customized with the goal that “every link we send matters to you”. One of its founders, Ranjan Roy, recently explained to me that they are working to provide a truly customized news acquisition and consumption experience.
Enthrill has developed a point-of-sale eBook card, one that can be used to sell a digital version of a specific title at retail. The product can then be used to deliver an eBook to any e-reading platform, with the back-end work handled by Enthrill. Author Guy Kawasaki included Enthrill in his book APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur, after he had come across the company while struggling to give away digital versions of his book at speaking events. Kawasaki is now an advisor to the company.
Like Informerly, PowerLinks works with publishers to deliver customized web content consumption experiences. The company describes itself as a “content and advertising server and exchange”, reflecting the convergence of both editorial and advertising content on the web. Both PowerLinks and Informerly illustrate one of the core recommendations included in An architecture of collaboration: “Experiment with conversion architectures that help attract and retain audiences.”
At this point, Screentakes offers a single iBook that analyzes “The African Queen” in an interactive fashion. The Book was developed by Jennine Lanouette, who teaches screenwriting and wanted to share some of her lessons with a wider audience. The company has just launched a Kickstarter campaign to help it develop an Android version of its “African Queen” book and add a second, comparable product covering “Thelma and Louise”. Watch out for the ending.
Disclosures: As the introduction hopefully makes clear, I’ve met with all of these companies. I am a paid (equity) advisor for Enthrill, and part of an advisory team for Screentakes.