Introducing Hardbound

A new form of media — designed for your phone.

About a year ago Joe and I left our jobs because we wanted to explore a question:

What if books were designed for screens?
In other words, what would it look like if, instead of creating with print in mind and exporting to an ebook (which is what authors and publishers do today) you started from scratch, and created a fundamentally new book experience that is designed for the screen, and takes advantage of everything computers can do?

It’s been sixteen months since I wrote that. I’ve learned so much since then, I honestly almost feel like a different person. (First lesson: books take forever to create. Second lesson: if your stories aren’t book-length, and if it’s not just a bunch of words, you probably shouldn’t even call it a “book”.)

But despite all the twists and turns, our core mission hasn’t changed:

We want to create a new form of storytelling that makes you feel awesome, and creates a super-high-bandwidth connection between your phone and your brain.

Today, we’re excited to finally share the app we’ve been working on this whole time! You can download it here.

What is Hardbound?

Today, Hardbound is a great way to learn about science, history, business, and culture. We put everything we’ve got into making one awesome story every week. Our stories have a unique format. They’re visual, interactive, and animated.

In the future, we hope many more people will start creating stories this way and Hardbound will blossom into a new form of media — not too different from what’s happened with podcasts in recent years.

Some of our stories

We’ve been refining our craft for over a year now, producing 18 original stories that have attracted over 56,000 readers.

People really like it!

Why make a new form of media?

When new technologies come along, the first thing that usually happens is people use it to make faster/cheaper copies the old thing they were doing.

For example:

The first cars were just copies of horse-drawn carriages.

The first movies were just copies of plays.

The first TV news shows were just copies of radio news shows.

So it only makes sense that the first digital stories would be copies of print / video stories!

But as time goes on, I believe that new forms of storytelling will emerge. They’ll take full advantage of the unique capabilities of computers. I don’t think Hardbound will be the only new medium, I think there will be many.

In fact, this is already happening — take podcasts, for example! Or webcomics! Or youtube vlogs! The list goes on.

So, why are these new forms of media emerging? To make better use of the tech we have to create better connections between minds.

Hardbound is not “social media”

The amazing thing about the internet is that anyone can create something that can be accessed by everyone else on the internet. It’s no wonder that some of the first most exciting developments would be a democratization of media creation! But now, in 2016, I think the pendulum has swung too far.

Social media tools make it easy for anyone to create content in seconds. The general trend has been towards removing friction for everyday people to publish. This is admirable, but it’s not our focus.

Not all media has to be social media. There will always be a place in this world for people who specialize in storytelling: reporters, columnists, novelists, podcasters, educators, etc. Our goal is to be a good tool for those people — creators that aim high.

That being said, do we want gatekeepers? Definitely not! We want anyone to be able to make Hardbound stories. And we want to create awesome tools for making these stories.

But we promise to never dumb down the reader experience for the sake of “removing friction” for creators.

We’re just getting started

This is still the early innings of the internet. I know there’s been a lot of talk lately about how mobile is over, it’s time to move on to the next thing. I’m not so sure. I think there’s still so much to be discovered and explored.

Thank you so much to everyone who has supported us! I want to give a special shout-out to our investors: Betaworks, Maveron, Brad Hargreaves, Dan Putt, Greg Dietz, Christina Cacioppo, Hiten Shah, Justin Kalifowitz, Ben Congleton, Albert Lee, Will Hoekenga, and Anthony Pompliano.

Thank you! 🙏🏼


PS — If you want to learn more about Hardbound, I sat down with Will Hoekenga (one of our advisors and long-time collaborators) and we recorded a pretty emotionally honest podcast about what this has been like. You can listen to it here, or on iTunes or Overcast.

Also, of course, we’re on Product Hunt! I’d love to answer any questions there, or you can always tweet at me.

Thank you! 🙏🏼

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