An insight into the publishing world…

Posts tagged ‘read’

Introducing Emmanuel Kolade, Founder of Shulph Book Platform

Today’s interview is with Emmanuel Kolade, a truly lovely designer whom I met on Twitter and whose new start-up company Shulph caught my attention. Launching in 2016, it aims to bridge the gap between print and digital books, and I am personally very excited about it. Find out more below about the man behind the product and what Shulph will be able to offer readers…

Emmanuel, founder of Shulph

Emmanuel, founder of Shulph

Please introduce yourself and give a brief overview of your career.

I am Emmanuel Kolade – an entrepreneur and experience designer. In my 14-year career as a designer, I have consulted for large clients across a wide array of industries to provide digital products or services for their people – be it customers, clients or employees. As a designer, I have always had an eye for and limited supply of patience for systems, services or products when they don’t work well enough. Or should I say, as well as I think they should?

I am also the founder of Shulph – an exciting new platform that allows book lovers harmonise their print and digital bookshelves.

Shulph – what’s it all about and how did it begin?

Shulph is an aggregator of a book lover’s print & digital bookshelves. It does this by enabling readers to buy a book once, but read it across multiple formats any time they want. Shulph follows and leads the reader through their buying and reading experience all the way from bookstores and online/in-app downloads to reading print and e-books. In short, we remove the friction people often experience when deciding whether to buy a book in print or digital format, but rather free the reader to move in and out of physical and digital spaces according to their contextual need at the moment in time when they need to read the title.

Shulph came from a dark but special place. The product was born from a personal frustration I have felt for some time. I read lots of nonfiction books. Some fiction books too, but if you take a look at my bookshelf, you’ll find more self-help, academic and professional textbooks than crime, science fiction and thriller titles.

I often experienced frustration when trying to reference content from one of my textbooks but couldn’t get access to it because it was either sitting in my shelf at home while I’m at work and I don’t have it in e-book. Or I want to re-read a fiction title I love but don’t want to carry the heavy hardback I bought excitedly on release day with me on the crammed train ride to work. These situations infuriate me to this day. When I fall in love with a title, I end up buying it twice. I’ve got several books in both print and digital formats because I want anytime, on-the-whim access to them. I am attached to my books like that. I initially thought I was the only person who felt this way until I started having conversations with other book lovers and they shared similar stories with me.

Who are the people behind Shulph?

I am working together with a small team of passionate believers. Mainly technologist who agree with me that the notion of readers having anytime, anywhere and any-format access to their library or shelf of books is one that needs to exist in the world.

What gap in the market do you think Shulph can fill?

The Shulph platform will appeal to readers who don’t want to be bound by format. There are those of us who believe that people shouldn’t have to choose between print and digital content. People who want to be able to put a print book down at page 15 to continue page 16 on a device because it suits their context at that moment and vice versa.

Why does Shulph seek to harmonize e-books with print books? Do you buy into the idea that the print book is dying a slow death?

The print book is not going away anytime soon. The dust is started to settle from the disruption that came about from the rise of e-books. My view is that both formats should complement –not compete with – each other. Both formats have very compelling use cases that it does not make sense that people find themselves choosing one over the other.

There are things digital books are great at which the print does not offer, and experiences that print books offer that digital can never replicate. Alternate endings and title updates (like app updates) are exciting prospects for the digital book in future. The print book offers tactile feedback and engages our senses in way that a digitally flipped pages just can’t. That synchronisation of people’s digital and physical bookshelves needs to happen because not having to choose should be a choice too.

 What are you particularly excited about for the launch of Shulph in 2016?

I can’t wait to see book lovers experience what is coming their way. Shulph will provide a liberating model to buyers of literature and I am just so excited to hear people describe how they feel about it. I think many people will eventually wonder how they ever lived without this service.

shulph-logo

 In your view, what do companies need to do in today’s ever-changing book industry to stay alive?

The book industry is quite an interesting one and we’re constantly having conversations with industry stakeholders including publishers, booksellers, authors and agents. Every one of these players needs to put the reader at the centre of their business strategy. Publishers, for example, need to stop thinking of booksellers as their customers.

Booksellers need to evolve what the in-store customer browsing and buying experience look like. We see bookstores as the most vulnerable players in the industry, and we are weaving the Shulph platform right into the ecosystem of bookstores. Our platform will drive customer traffic into bookstores and see them even start to fulfil book orders for local delivery or click-and-collect.

Authors need to engage more with readers through concepts like creating organic, evolvable titles. The concept of alternate endings and app-style update for titles are some interesting evolutions and innovations that authors and their agents should be thinking about.

In general and across most industries, customers are moving into a place where they expect to be able to engage with products and services through multiple entry points. Omni-channel customer experiences are quite becoming the next frontier for competitive commercial advantage. Publishers and booksellers will need to wake up to this imminent future sooner or later.

Personally, are you a big reader? If so, what have you read recently that really made an impact on you?

I am always reading something. I go through the nonfiction titles more quickly mainly because I apply them to my life almost instantly. I am currently re-reading a book titled ‘Zero to One’ by Peter Thiel. It’s a beautiful entrepreneurial book that talks about how the world is made better when we create new things that didn’t exist before. The ideas in the book keep me going when I often hit massive dead-ends on the road to bringing Shulph to the world.

You can follow Shulph on Twitter @shulph

To sign up for exciting launch updates and further information, visit www.shulph.co.

BEHOLD SARAH BY LINDY HENNY

Behold Sarah is an incredibly unique book published by the new publishing house Clink Street Publishing. I’d like to thank the publisher for sending me a review copy of the book.

behold sarah
Sarah’s autobiography will interest anyone who is curious about life’s meaning, the value of self-discovery, and the search for some form of God. It is, in itself, a blueprint of self-analysis, and at the same time a description of Sarah’s raw, rich life, and her restoration from despair to wanting to live. In reading Behold Sarah you will time travel with her through her singular, often murky, ever emerging past. She shares her story with an italicised god – but whose voice are we actually hearing? Perhaps Sarah’s voice and God’s are one and the same. Prepare to float on the flotsam-jetsam Thames, be guided through quirky parts of London, be banged up blissfully in a high security prison, fall in and out of love, and out and into sex, and, deep breath, find yourself in the painfully comfortable paradox of the therapy room.

I would, despite recent discussions and protestations about the use of this term, describe this book as ‘literary fiction.’ It is quite unlike any book I’ve ever come across before. It invites deep analysis (though not the type that puts you off reading it, and is in fact really fun to do), and I think asks as many questions as it answers – but that’s all part of its charm.

After an admittedly slow start which initially made me worry that I would have trouble reading it, the narrative kicks off into a weirdly fascinating exploration of the protagonists’ life, from early age right until present day. For this reason it doesn’t really have a plot as such, but acts more as a self-reflection narrative – so if you’re put off by that kind of thing, it might not be for you. However, those who love a good character build-up and exploration will very much enjoy it. Those who are also interested in post-modern experimentation with different forms of writing will also love this book; it is peppered throughout with play scripts, poetry, and non-linear narration. It is a train-of-thought narrative and we often find that Sarah has gone back to her previous notes and writings and reflected on what she has written previously and gives further thoughts and insights. For this reason, I think the book is a brave step into a creative kind of storytelling of which many of the mainstream publishers are just too scared to take advantage.

The novel kicks off with Sarah explaining that she is feeling suicidal and can’t decide whether to live or die. She is a psychotherapist, and decides to sit and analyse her own life and thought processes and come to a conclusion. This is such an interesting approach to take as in this way, the entire novel itself becomes a product of Sarah’s character traits and instincts. Throughout, God’s voice punches through in an italicised font and speaks to Sarah on a subconscious level. Often she will react to the voice but is unaware that she’s heard it or acted upon it:

Many of my poems are about love, but this one is about Sam’s untimely death.

GOD it was timely

Or was it timely? You died instead of suffering.

It draws out an interesting internal debate of the concept of God and what God is. Is he a real thing like many people believe, or a manifestation of ourselves, our own brains, a coping mechanism?

Sarah often retreats into her ‘Hut’ or ‘Willow Cabin’ inside her brain which acts as a safe house or a sanctuary when she is feeling low or vulnerable or really wants to explore parts of herself and her past or her history. It’s a fascinating insight into how the mind actually thinks and works – Sarah is showing us herself by showing us how she thinks, rather than how thoughts should be put down on paper. Some passages have no punctuation at all:

I’m not getting this issue sorted out is it possible that we are created to be monogamous monogamous sexually don’t think so we are created is there a creator if so if so how the hell are we meant to know what is expected of us

For this reason, it is creatively unique. What I also love is that Sarah is not just made into a one-dimensional main character who is deliberately crafted into something that all readers are expected to fall in love with. She does have controversial thoughts and opinions, she does tell stories of having done bad things in the past, she does have irrational emotions, but this only serves to make her more real. That, I think, is what a novel should do with a character.

This is definitely not a switch-your-brain-off, beach-read kind of book. It’s a lot more than that, and that’s why ultimately I enjoyed it. There’s a time and a place for reading this kind of novel, but it keeps on giving back to the reader each time you return to it. The book is full of scandal, emotion, and intrigue. It makes you think, and exposes you to types of literature that you might not otherwise consider. A job well done.

Introducing Bookshop Owner Joanna De Guia


Victoria Park Books
174 Victoria Park Road
London, E9 7HD

@VictoriaParkBks

joanna@victoriaparkbooks.co.uk
www.victoriaparkbooks.co.uk

I am so pleased to be able to feature an interview with a bookshop owner; it’s always been kind of a quiet dream of mine to work in a bookshop. Today’s interviewee is a children’s book store owner who is located in London and who is very passionate about books, children’s literature, and the world of publishing. A vital cog within the publishing machine, the bookseller is one of the most important and influential people in inciting passion and enthusiasm for reading. To be able to do that for children must be a wonderful thing – if I am an example of how childhood reading can play a part in a person’s future career, then encouraging children to read, and to love to read, is essential.

Joanna De Guia, owner of Victoria Park Books in London, has very kindly conducted this interview with me and gives a fascinating and illuminating look into the world of book selling and how the publishing industry has changed things massively for the bookseller over the years..

When you convert a child to reading you know you are potentially having an effect that could improve the quality of their life and job opportunities.

I notice you used to work for Waterstones. What would say are the main differences between working for a chain bookshop and your own, independent bookshop?

When I worked for Waterstones it was still a small personal chain owned by Tim so it felt like a local bookshop.  I was in the High St Ken branch and we bought stock with our local customers in mind.  There wasn’t a core stock list then or centralised buying.  That all came in much later.  The main difference then was that we weren’t set up for customer orders as we were so big the idea was that people came in and would find something that would fit their requirements in the shop.  As a small independent we can’t do that as we don’t have the room or the capital.  So our customer ordering is key.

You first worked for Waterstones in the 80’s. How would you say things have changed in the industry between now and then?

It has changed beyond all recognition. The number of books published has increased exponentially so it is now necessary to return stock.  This wasn’t necessary when I worked at Waterstones and in my Mum’s shop, or indeed allowed. Once a book became old stock you put it in the reduced section as there just wasn’t that much in the way of new titles to keep up with.  There were several high street chains then (Smiths, Ottakers, Dillons, Books etc).  Now there is really only one, which is Waterstones.  There was a NET Book Agreement which meant that no retailer could undercut on price except if they were prepared to take a hit on their own profit margins.  There was no Amazon; no online.  The High Street was King.  Books were proportionately more expensive but people didn’t expect them to be rock bottom prices.  There were several bookdata providers so all retailers had equal access to a list of books in print (on a microfiche!).  Now there is a monopoly of provision –  Neilsen – and small retailers can’t afford to purchase that online access except through a wholesaler which means that information can’t be put onto their websites to indicate their ability to provide any book in print.  There were no e-books so there wasn’t the huge discrepancy between the offer from indies (unable to make much of a profit on e-books as there is no satisfactory scheme for selling e-books available to us) and that from chains and Amazon.  In short the playing field was much more level and the main difference between walking into an indie and a big provider was that you might have to wait 24 hours for a specific title from an indie if they didn’t hold it in stock.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Undoubtedly it is effecting an introduction between a reader and a marvellous book.  This is especially satisfying when one is dealing with kids as there is now so much competition for their free time and when you make a convert to reading you know you are potentially having an effect that could improve the quality of their life and job opportunities. I love inventing and running reading festivals and events and reminding children of how much fun reading can be.

Have you found that having your own children allowed you to understand the demands for quality children’s books?

Without a doubt! It is like working in a sweetshop when you have kids and if something especially delicious is shown there is always “one for us” added to the order.  Plus I know how deadly dull the process of learning to read is now in schools with everybody required to teach phonics and only phonics.  Being able to show children that books are actually a source of pleasure and not just something you have to do to pass an exam ensures lifelong reading and opens up a whole world of enjoyment. 

You have recently branched out into selling e-books. When did this begin and has this been successful so far? (If it’s too soon to tell, how successful do you expect it to be?)

I don’t think we have sold a single e-book!  The e-book market has been completely cornered by the cut-price big players (Amazon beyond everything and then Waterstone’s and Foyles and Blackwells – all online).  Indies get a laughable cut of profits – between 5 and 15% – and so even if you offer the opportunity to buy on your website (and we do) why would anybody do that when they could buy it from one of the others for so much less?

How important is it for your business that the customer trusts your staff’s advice? Do you find it has a big impact on sales?

My staff read a lot and have opinions about what they like and don’t like and they recommend titles happily.  Recommendations are crucial for indies.  A customer may come in for something specific which we are very likely not to have (given the number of books published and the amount of space and money we have). We can suggest other similar (possibly better) things and thus ensure a sale.  The people who use us best are those who are happy to be open to something new and unexpected rather than somebody coming for something specific which is immediately available.

How do you measure your bookshop’s success? Hard sales, or customer satisfaction and loyalty? How do ensure you continue to be successful?

Both hard sales and customer satisfaction are crucial yardsticks. However without hard sales it doesn’t matter how satisfied customers are; we cannot continue.  So the final measure is whether we make a profit.  I don’t know if I would describe us as successful yet. Our customers definitely love us and so do “our” authors.  And some of our publishers love us too.  And we have a legacy already of reading events and children who without us would not have developed a love of reading.  But it is such a struggle and the industry is so clueless about how to deal with its independent sector.  And high street shopping appears to be dying a slow and painful death right now.  There is very little help out there for small businesses.  The banks are sitting on our money and refusing to lend it to ensure survival.  It is quite hard to see where the future lies. 

In what ways would you say your bookshop is unique? How do you go above and beyond for your customers?

All indies are unique.  That is what is great and what is annoying about them.  They reflect their community and the personality of the owners and staff.  We reflect this specifically in the stock we sell and the books which interest us.  We stock books which would never sell outside London or a big city; showing diverse communities and liberal lifestyles.  The events we run are very realistic in their aims, understanding that most of our potential customers come from very poor families (Hackney is the second poorest borough and Tower Hamlets is the poorest borough in the country – and we border both) and/or from non-English speaking families.  Therefore we need to evangelise about reading and ensure it is the most exciting thing those children encounter – more exciting than their Xbox or the latest Pixar movie!  We go above and beyond what is expected of a corporate bookshop which only needs to show a profit.  We feel we should be selling children quality and not the latest pap.  But the quality has to be fun to read and sometimes pap is necessary to entice children into reading something better.  We have a great responsibility to our young customers.  We know them all and have watched many of them grow from primary school to A Level students and make their move out into the real world.

Your bookshop is based in London. What are the advantages and disadvantages of this?

The advantages are that reps still visit London bookshops regularly so we are more up-to-date on new titles; and we have a significant population.  However we are not on a high street as such.  Very few indies can afford to be placed so well now.  We are in a (lovely) backwater of boutique-y shops.  But this means we don’t get the footfall you would get on a high street, even one outside of a big city.  We don’t have the disadvantages of leasing our building – London rents are extortionate and I have no idea how anybody keeps going having to pay those – but our business rates are affected by the relatively high cost of renting and so we pay more rates. We didn’t have the problems of having to contend with out of town shopping centres…until they built Westfield 20 minutes away in Stratford.  Now we have a Foyles right on our doorstep, alongside a Primark and a John Lewis, etc, etc. So the attractions of mall shopping are becoming apparent. Mostly the advantages of being in London are personal; I can’t imagine wanting to live anywhere else!

What are your goals for the future?

Our goals are to survive.  And to continue to produce our reading festival at Shoreditch Town Hall – Town Hall Tales – and to make a success of our bookstall at the Half Moon Theatre in Limehouse.  And eventually to be able to pay myself a reasonable salary; nothing greedy mind, just enough to make a proper contribution to the household bills which are not particularly high!

What do you and your partner most enjoy reading? What do your children most enjoy reading?

I read anything at all.  But the things I have read recently which I loved are the new Michel Faber – The Book of Strange New Things – and a new book unpublished ‘til May called The Mountain Can Wait by Sarah Leipciger.  I guess I especially like literary novels with a great plot.  And I love graphics – Fun Home by Alison Bechdel being one I read last year which blew me away. And then I love reading anything by Shaun Tan and good gritty kids’ fiction like Sally Gardner and E Lockhart.

Cris likes crime fiction and has just finished the Gold Finch by Donna Tartt.

Tilly and I are currently reading To Kill a Mockingbird and she loves graphics – Jane, the Fox and Me, for example. She gets the Phoenix comic every week – and she reads absolutely anything from picture books to teen novels to poetry.  She is obsessed with The Fault in Our Stars and the Divergent trilogy and the Hunger Games.  And we are especially fond of Carol Anne Duffy. 

Which would you say has been your most rewarding job/career so far and why?

I have had many careers(!) and even more jobs.  I am quite old!  I have probably found the bookshop my most rewarding so far but also my most stressful because it is my thing.  I created it from scratch so its successes are all mine.  But so are its failures.  Mostly I am proud of every child we convert to reading for pleasure and every book we recommend which we get a positive report on!

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Have you shopped here before? What did you think of your experience? Or perhaps you know of a similar book store that you would like to recommend and publicize? Please, let’s get discussing and as always leave a comment below!

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