Announcing the Hardbound Beta

Today we’re launching a new beta with Lowercase Alpha.

TL;DR
For the past 9 months, Joe, Will, and I have been experimenting. Our goal was simple, yet kind of crazy: create a better way to read on your phone. We think we’re getting close, and we’d love for you to try it!

We’re launching a new story today in partnership with Lowercase (investors in Twitter, Uber, Instagram, etc) called “Understanding Venture Capital”. You can read it on the web right here, and find more stories like this in our app.

We’d love your feedback 😊

Why are we working on this?

Even though the vast majority of media gets consumed today on smartphones, the formats of these stories are pretty much 1:1 digital recreations of their analog ancestors.

  • Web articles are still just articles.
  • Digital videos are still just videos.
  • Ebooks are still just books.

But if you think about it, it doesn’t have to be that way. Articles, books, and videos are all outgrowths of the underlying technologies that enabled them. They did the best they could, given the materials they were working with.

The thing is, we’re working in a completely different material now. We’re not using paper or televisions to consume stories, we’re using smartphones.

Do you think digital recreations of analog media formats is the best way to tell stories on phones? Nope? Neither do I! That’s why we’re building Hardbound.

Our goal is to create a new media format that’s designed around the capabilities and constraints of phones.

If we do it right, it should be a much more engaging and effective way to consume a story, and the next time you’re struggling through a dense article, or waiting on a video to load, you’ll find yourself thinking:

“I wish this was in Hardbound”

What makes the Hardbound format different?

It’s a hybrid of text and video. There are three main differences:

  1. Like text (and unlike video), it’s self-paced and doesn’t have sound. This makes it easy and lightweight to consume when you’re on the go or don’t want to pull out your headphones. It also lets you read as fast or slow as you want.
  2. Like video (unlike text), Hardbound stories are primarily visual. You can use animations, images, typography, and illustrations to convey meaning. This makes stories much easier to digest, and much more memorable.
  3. Also like video (and unlike text), we only show you one thing at a time. Nobody likes a wall of text. Progressive disclosure is a much better strategy for feeding people information.

But honestly the best way to judge it for yourself is just to try it. It’s much better when you have the iPhone app, but it also works pretty well on the web.

Who creates Hardbound stories?

Anyone can! …Eventually 😉

Our story-creation platform isn’t quite ready for prime-time, but our goal is to make it easy for anyone with sufficient motivation and skill to create these stories.

For now, we’re building a small, tight-knit creative community that is exploring this new format. Like the first movie-makers who had to figure out the principles of cinematography, we’re currently trying to figure out how to tell stories using Hardbound. If you’re interested in experimenting with this too, email me! I’m n@hardbound.co.

To start, our main focus is on stories that explain the world and make you smarter. Sometimes these stories will be specific to tech/startups, other times they’ll be about science, history, or culture more broadly.

Anyway, we’re really excited to get Hardbound a little further out in the wild! It’s been the most challenging/fun professional experience of my life so far. If you read one of our stories and enjoy it, it’d mean a lot to me if you shared it, or at least tweeted at us (we’re twitter.com/hardbound) to let us know that you liked it 😊

Thanks so much, and be on the lookout for much, much more!

—Nathan

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