November marked my first full year as the new CEO of StreetLib, and as we close 2019 and prepare to start not just a new year but a new decade, I’m taking time out to review where we are today, and what my aspirations are for the company in 2020 and beyond.
Note I say aspirations, not plans, and that’s because publishing is still in a transitional stage where things have, are and will change fast as new technologies and new opportunities evolve, and old ones fall by the wayside.
A company that makes concrete plans, carefully mapping out step by step the next five years, or even the next twelve months, is always going to be at a disadvantage in a fluid and fast-moving environment like global publishing.
For StreetLib, being able to respond to and adapt to new conditions is essential. But more importantly still is to for StreetLib be proactive as well as reactive. That is to say, that we do not just respond to industry developments as they happen, but are often at the forefront of those new developments.
Some of Our Recent Milestones:
At StreetLib, for example, we were:
- The first of the indie-friendly English-language aggregators to offer both audiobook distribution (through partners as varied as Audible, Storytel, Ubook and many others) and audiobook production services (through our partnership with Il Narratore Audiolibri).
- We were the first to offer podcast distribution through our partnership with Spreaker.
- We were the first to offer a Blockchain-enabled royalty payments option via our partnership with SureRemit.
- We were the first to offer IP Rights management through our partnership with Nakiri.
- We were the first to offer a localized digital publishing portal for every country in the world.
- We were the first to offer authors and publishers an option to make money through a serialized fiction reading app thanks to our partnership with STARY’s Dreame.
- We were the first to offer free distribution of global indigenous language content through our partnership with Storyweaver.
- We were the first to offer a free journal covering the global publishing scene — our (mostly) daily The New Publishing Standard.
- We were the first to offer free B2B newsletters for Africa, for the Middle East, and for self-publishers, and to offer free slide deck presentations showing digital opportunities around the world (like this).
And that’s before I even begin to talk about the more than fifty other distribution partners that mean StreetLib offers the widest possible distribution available.
Everything Started with a Why
Why would we need to do all this?
Because gone are the days when there was only one way to publish a book, only one way to reach readers, and only one or two markets where that book could be sold.
When I took over the helm in November 2018, I decided to not follow the craze of competing in the self-referencing ultra-rich US-centered publishing world, but I rather turned my gaze in the opposite direction and started exploring the immense diversity of the rest of the world.
What a trip! At every step on the way, I found myself in front of huge opportunities and monumental problems to solve.
Little by little, among many adversities, our playing field started to look enormous and our competitors started disappearing from our radars: in front of us there were only new customers with tons of problems to solve, and we relentlessly tried our best to make them happy.
We clearly are still far from finding all the solutions, but I’m extremely proud of and grateful to my team for what we achieved so far.
This path led us to understand what is our innate mission: to build a truly global tech-publishing platform for indie-authors and publishers for every country of the world.
Today, not only are we helping indie-authors and publishers to adopt the digital formats in a world where more and more literature will increasingly be consumed in digital forms, but we also enable them to reinvent their physical books production chains thanks to digital technologies.
We are working to build the best possible technology platform to support and empower any kind of book publishers: from indie-authors to big corporate-publishers, from micro-publishers and small-presses to education and academics publishers, we want to serve them all with our tailored publishing services.
We provide a format-agnostic global distributor that will be at the centre of a truly global, truly inclusive publishing eco-system for the 2020s, where print and digital not just co-exist but compliment one another to deliver a uniquely fulfilling experience to consumers, while rewarding both content creators and the necessary “middleman” partners that make it all possible.
And all importantly this is not one-way. This is gateway distribution, whereby we want to be able to take the works of any author and publisher, anywhere in the world, and make them available to readers anywhere in the world.
As we start 2020 the sobering reality is that the USA has less than 7% of the world’s internet users.
Not that 312 million people online is not exciting, but in China there are 854 million online, and in India 560 million. The USA is at 95% internet penetration and has no room to grow. China is at just 60% and India at less than 41%. Both are growing fast. But not as fast as Africa, which already has more internet users than the USA (522 million) and is at less than 40% penetration. In the Arab world, another region few authors and publishers give a second thought to, there are more than 200 million Arabs online.
We see this as an exciting opportunity for our authors and publishers, and we want to support and enable them to catch these opportunities with our technology platform.
Already our catalogue fields titles in over 90 languages, but we won’t rest until we offer content in every language.
Already we provide one of the broadest distribution networks with more than 50 retail, library and subscription partners, but we won’t rest until we offer a retail, library and subscription channels in every country of the world.
Also, we’ll be stepping up our efforts to inform and educate as we go: it’s extremely important for us to drive the debate and lead from the front, not waiting until the ground is proven before we take action.
That’s our attitude as we start the new year and the new decade.
This is the time for me to express my personal gratitude to my exceptional team, to all our collaborators, to our customers, to our partners, to our investors and to everybody who believed in us. Thank you!
I’m grateful to have been invited to speak at publishing conferences and book fairs as diverse as Thessaloniki in Greece and the IPA Africa Seminar in Nairobi, among many.
And to have been able to meet in person so many incredible and passionate publishing professionals at International Book Fairs in London, Bologna, Turin, New York City, Frankfurt and Rome.
Happy Holiday for those who are celebrating, and best wishes to everyone around the world for whom the western holidays will be just another working day.
I’m sure we planted something good this past year at StreetLib, and I look forward to what comes next in 2020 with humbleness and excitement!