I’ve decided to start a small blog to share some information regarding this site.
This blog will be used to share some information on the development progress for novel-ebook as well as answer some common questions that is often send my way.
I want to use this first post to talk a bit about the reason we had to switch sources, what exactly happened and how everything was solved as well as add a little bit of background information on how this site was started.
Let me preface this by saying that I will not name the source websites and information regarding them. This site was created to solve a specific problem I had when I first started getting into web-novels. I want to read Chinese web-novels on an E-Ink reader! It was never intended to be used to bypass ads or deny revenue from the original authors, so I hope that you use the official websites of the authors to read the novels whenever possible. Sadly the fast majority of novels are just not available on E-Ink devices.
So how did this site came to be?
When I started reading my first web-novel “Tales of Demons and Gods” I binge read like crazy, putting in up to 12 hours of reading during the weekend all on an iPhone 5s with a, by today’s standard, super tiny screen. My thumbs and eyes hurt like hell and when i picked up “Coiling Dragon” I knew that I needed to print these novels out or get myself an E-Ink device to not permanently hurt myself.
After I bought myself a Kindle Paperwhite I quickly had a problem. “How tf am I supposed to put these novels on the device?!”
Solving this problem was a journey that took months. First it started with using Pocket and a Calibre plugin, which was a terrible experience. Then I wrote a Python script to get the chapters. Which worked really well, but friends who were not that technically savvy told me it was too complicated. Which resulted in the early version of the website you see today.
After that I continuously improved the site whenever I felt like it, during my later years in university I actually forgot this site even existed and only got reminded it was still online and working because I got a bill from my server provider. All the while the site continued to grow without any marketing or online posts, just through the word of mouth. While I barely read web-novels at this point in time, I still try to support this site to the best of my abilities in my free time, so people who have a similar problem like me in the past can get their fix on novels from the comfort of their phones! What that means though is that this site receives very little new features and stuff like the new website design is usually only happening when I find myself wanting to try out new web technologies (the new site design is written in Svelte, check it out if you’re a front-end dev!), or if I start reading a new web-novel and get annoyed with my own site.
The last two week where an exception to this. The old source decided to block every bot I had running with no notice or warning. Super annoying especially since I finished the new front-end less then a week before. I honestly thought about making this site private and just make it available for me and a few friends in order to avoid the hassle of fixing it in the future, since this site is nothing than a hobby project and a money drain for myself. In the end I decided against it as I truly believe that this project adds value to the internet and might be a useful tool for random strangers on the internet.
So what happened during the week the site went down?
At first I thought it would be an easy fix, just rewrite some of the code, port it over to a different cloud provider and were good to go, right? I started a straw-poll to ask if you guys where happy with the old source or if I should switch to a new one, it was close to 50/50 with a slight edge for keeping the old source, so I started my testing to bypass the protections put into place by the website. I tried to keep the changes to the code as little as possible since I spend quite some time to write the code as efficient as possible to keep the server costs down. But the changes to the code became more and more until I basically rewrote most of it. Once I was finally done, I put the code onto the test-server and started testing for bugs and performance. All was good until I looked at the user statistics for the first time in around a year (yea I know, should’ve probably checked those before putting all the work into it), and quite frankly I was shocked how much traffic this site gained. I don’t want to share to much details, there have been more then 1 billion (yes 1.000.000.000) chapters downloaded since this site went live. To put this into perspective it would take over 10.000 years to finish reading them all if the average chapter length is around 6 minutes., You might think I was happy that so many people use something I created and in a way I am, but at that time I absolutely wasn’t. Running the numbers and comparing prices on various cloud services was not a pleasurable experience. In the end I just decided to ditch the idea of using the old source.
After some thinking I came to the conclusion that the only sustainable way to continue supporting this site is to change source. The new source has quite a bit of problems and the quality is definitely not as high as the previous one, but it was the only one I could find that had all the popular novels while also being able to get scraped by a fairly simple bot, which was key to keep server costs as low as they have been.
As of writing this, the new source has been up for a couple of days and download times seems to have stabilized mostly and I am quite happy with the deployment.
So what’s next?
I am playing with the idea to make it possible to support this site with donations. Since the launch of this website I’ve paid around $1000 out of my own pocket to keep this site running, plus whatever the countless hours of time I invested is worth. Even though I ran ads for some time, it is not even close to cover the server costs. Just to be clear I am able and willing to pay for this, so this site is not going anywhere, no matter if I receive donations or not. But you also have to understand the reason there is little development or new sources is that it would just take more of my time and money. So if you want to support this site and have the disposable income to do so (really if your don’t have the money, don’t donate) here are some addresses where you can send some Crypto my way. Once there the donations cover the costs of operation I can start adding new features that would increase server costs :)
Thanks for reading!