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…
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.
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.