FutureBookHack. Life’s a beach

Just back after a mini break (from reality). I’ve spent the weekend at the FutureBookHack – a bit like the one I did about hacking to beat cancer last year but for the publishing world.

The challenge: trying to rethink how to inspire people to read more.

Well, that was the way I approached it.

I feel more attached to the idea of reading than the idea of books. Although I do really love books. They’re like trophies that stand as talismans for the mighty endeavour that is finishing a book. They’re also nice to have and hold and gradually wear in as you discover the contents.

They also look great on a shelf.

But for the purposes of this event the thing for me was reading, and how you might be able to inspire people to do more of it.

My completely self-centred take on this was to think about the thing I like doing even more than reading (usually) – listening to music.

For me, records, tapes and CDs became Last.fm, iTunes and Spotify over the course of 20 years and now all six of those things come together make up my musical equivalent of a bookshelf.

The things that really struck me when I started thinking about this was that the way I listen to music has evolved, a lot. But the way I read hasn’t.

Digital, digital, digital and paper. Data, data, data and print. Completely imbalanced.

Well, not quite. This weekend I discovered Nielson (not Jacob), ONIX and OpenLibrary. Books do have a digital footprint and so do their sales, prices and points of sale. But there’s no equivalent of an iTunes library or a Spotify playlist. At least not on the same scale.

So, back to the hack day.

It was full of publishers and bookish types (Penguin tote bag, anyone?). Full of programmers. And a few design types too. A good mix, and as someone pointed out, 40% female (which is possibly some sort of record).

And some of the ideas were truly amazing. Everything from tablet-told stories with changeable moods and smart search tools that can turn ‘that red cover book with the man in a hat’ type queries into meaningful search results. There was the book equivalent of the Bat Phone and a pop-up book that triggered digital content when it was opened. Wow.

Like I said, my approach was to look outside the sector to try to inspire more people to get excited by reading. The basic idea was matching songs to books to create a suggestion engine that gives you clever tips about what books to read.


We created a prototype to explore some of the 1,000-or-so ideas we came up with over the weekend. Plenty of refinement needed.

I still love the idea and while the adrenalin is still flowing I’m committing myself to try to pursue it in some way, shape or form. Any takers? I’ve got some *interesting* ideas about how to connect the songs with books…

Here’s a slight refinement of the idea.

We didn’t quite nail the data-meets-tech bit (relying on some slightly unhealthy stereotypes to create content) but as I sit back and relax my brain after a weekend of intense thinking and complete escapism from normality (or, work) I have a thousand crazy ideas flying around my head about how mixing music and books could turn on a few new lights. Great.

What’s really great is that my mind’s completely relaxed and recovered and ready for the start of another working week. Who needs beaches?

15. June 2014 by SharonAnneKean
Categories: Make Stuff | Leave a comment