We deserve better books
Have you ever had a poor reading experience with books you purchased from Amazon or other retailers? I myself have, many times!
We can spend hours discussing the technological fragmentation and inefficiencies of the current publishing landscape — the Amazon walled garden, the Apple EPub specific rules or even the futility of the EPUB3 standard — but, at the end of the day, the point is readers have to deal with tons of low-quality, mediocre and bad-designed books.
I’m talking about digital books here and I will extend the discussion on paper books in a future post.
The problem is that publishers pursue a cheap solution instead of quality, and this is a problem if you don’t have or don’t use the right pieces of technology and algorithm.
Where we come from
As a matter of fact, I’ve been wanting to create better books from the moment I started working at StreetLib, about 8 years ago. At that time, the name of our company was “Simplicissimus Book Farm”: we were among the few digital publishing evangelists in the world, especially in Europe, we were actually strongly suggesting to publishers to “digitize” their books and I was one of those guys working on this challenging process.
At the time, the digital book production process was really a handcrafted work, and it was both fascinating and pretty tough!
Tough because we had to deal with super fancy publishers’ expectations, a shaky publishing landscape, tons of hand work to implement custom-tailored HTML code inside the books, and many unreliable tools to validate and deliver the final content.
But also fascinating because we soon understood that we were actually at the beginning of a huge revolution: we were reinventing the ancient art of making books after hundreds of years!
People have the power
I felt soon very lucky of being in charge of such an amazing task, and this feeling inspired my team to realize what our long-term mission was: as we were able to create wonderful books for our pioneering publishers, we would build a self-service platform for everybody to easily produce the same kind of content.
Everybody is a writer so everybody should effortlessly be able to produce a wonderful book. This made sense to us as we were also starting to distribute ebooks on a global scale. We were actually democratizing the books’ business as we were providing to everybody the tools to produce a “real” book and put it on the shelves of the “real” online retailers. Pretty exciting!
Well, this always sounds a bit weird to the publishing lobby… I think “our project” is not less shocking for them than the fact that the outrageous Gutenberg — more than 500 years ago — empowered anyone to read his “bible” thanks to his brand new printing technology.
We soon became electrified by this idea of revolutionizing the publishing world by empowering people and we started working like crazy on our platform. After a lot of work a new tool called BackTypo saw the light.
StreetLib Write, finally!
We invested all our energy in this project and today I can easily affirm that StreetLib Write is one of the best book authoring service out there.
StreetLib Write is an online service that everybody can use to create wonderful books. It’s extremely easy to use and provides high-quality results. We put all of our technology knowledge and background into it and we’re very happy to offer it for free to any kind of writers and publishers willing to experiment and follow our idea on how books have to be created.
Here are some of the main features of Write:
1- Writing Editor
Write provides a WYSIWYG editor to insert, edit, and format your book’s content. You can structure your book in parts, chapters and subchapters, import images, add footnotes and all the standard elements of a book like the table of content, the colophon, the title page and so on. Easy to use, it gets the work done.
2- Graphic Themes
Write provides a handful of professionally-designed graphic themes to choose from in order to get a wonderful book. The user can focus on the book’s content, pick the preferred theme for the genre of the book he’s producing and, with a few clicks, automagically get his beautiful, technically validated and distribution-ready ebook in both EPUB and MOBI file formats. If the user wants to take a step further, the original themes can even be customized via CSS!
3- Manuscript and EPUB Importer
You may prefer writing your draft in Word or Scrivener or Google Doc, right? Well, don’t worry because you can easily upload your manuscript on Write to get your well-made ebook. Write will automagically recognize all the chapters of your book, no 30.000 words style guide needed! You can even import an EPUB file in order to take advantage of the Write’s graphic theme: yes, you got it right: you can easily use Write as a conversion tool in order to produce well-made EPUB files starting from badly-made ones!
4- Fixed Layout Books
Comics and Kids digital books are becoming more and more popular, and if you want to publish them on Amazon, Apple, Google and the likes, you should be able to provide them a fixed layout EPub3 (or a KF8 file, for Amazon). That’s why Write also deals with Fixed Layout Books: you can upload your PDF — the very same file writers or publishers usually have ready for their printing needs — and import it in Write in order to get an EPUB3FXL or KF8 with a few clicks!
StreetLib Write, what’s next?
Of course, there are many interesting areas of development that we would like to explore with Write. At the same time, for us, it’s not always easy to implement all the user’s requests as we would like to balance the market requirements with our own vision on content creation by maintaining the easiest authoring experience.
One example is the audiobooks’ world: the cost of producing an audiobook is still pretty high and this represents a huge limitation for the audiobook market development. It’s probably the only limitation for a product that in fact is really successful and literally loved by millions of people all around the world. In my opinion, the audiobooks’ creation process could improve a great deal, and it can be an interesting area of research and development for Write.
Another great area of research is the computer-aided writing process: what if an AI-powered authoring tool helped authors and publishers to write better content? What about a technology that could automate tasks like subjects research, facts checking, grammar correction, proofreading, writing style assessment, and even some sort of content suggestions? Well, the technology is not there yet but even today there are some people already working on those issues today! I think that’s another exciting possible area of development for Write!
You know what? We, at StreetLib, are going to have an amazing +15 brainstorming session next week when we all gather in our headquarters in Loreto (AN) at the heart of our beloved Italian hills. We’ll throw our minds 15 years forward and we’ll brainstorm about how our tools and services will look like in the long-term. We’ll squeeze our brains thinking about how writing a book will look like in the future, and if you like we’ll be very happy to hear your ideas on that in the comments below.
In the meantime, we’re very busy on maintaining StreetLib Write as it is and improving it with new and useful features. If you are in the process of producing a book, I hope you’ll give StreetLib Write a try and let us know your opinion about it. I’m sure you will like it and find it a real writer’s life change.