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Swedes pioneer new 'Spotify for e-books'

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Swedes pioneer new 'Spotify for e-books'
Platify founders Pascal Denize, Johanna Denize, and Henrik Hussfelt
08:35 CEST+02:00
Following in the footsteps of Swedish streaming music service Spotify, a group of tech entrepreneurs believe they've found a similar solution that could revolutionise the book market, The Local's Geoff Mortimore discovers.

The rise of tablet computing continues unabated.

Over 1 million units of the Ipad 2 were sold on the first weekend of release earlier this year, while the rush to join the market grows by the week.

With the hardware infrastructure in place, publishers from both the digital and traditional media have been accused of reacting too slowly for the demand for content, not least in the form of e-books.

With this in mind Johanna and Pascal Denize, a pair of venture capitalists with a long history of start ups in the world of book publishing, founded Platify, a digital reading solution that they hope will transform the book market in the same way that Spotify has managed in the music industry.

”Book publishers have been slow in changing their work practices and business models to suit the new environment,” says Pascal Denize.

”We figured that by using what we have learned in our many years in the business, with the best software solution there is a chance of cornering a market.”

The pair hooked up with software developer Henrik Hussfelt and Platify was born.

Put simply, Platify's role is to sit between the publishers and the tablets, and manage the purchase and subscription services of books online.

”We are not the first to realise the potential of this, but you have to have the best technological solution. Ours differs from others in several ways, most notably that you can bookmark pages, so if you are in the middle of a book it is easy to go back to the last point you were reading," Denize explains.

"The advantage we have over the giant publishers is that the more creative individuals and authors are not always the ones who can make a success out of a business."

According to Denize, the business sensibilities of Platify's founders also give it a leg up on traditional publishers.

"Publishing is still seen by a large majority of people in it as an art form rather than a business, and profit making is not the first priority. This suits people like us and makes it a ripe area for our kind venture," he explains.

A potential downfall of any new venture in this business is the lack of a proven business model. Denize is aware of this but feels that someone will get it right sooner or later.

For the moment Platify has started with academic books in the United States, where one third of the global book market is based.

”The choice of market is an obvious one, because you have a homogeneous population of over 300 million, all speaking the same language. This makes our launch market choice easy, but as we grow we will branch out,” says Denize.

The trio tested tested the platform live last month on their own free service Litfy.

The site, which is primarily aimed at students, contains about 2,000 titles for which the copyright has expired.

Once they can test the success of the project, they can branch out and offer publishers as well as both published and new, unpublished authors a sales platform for their work.

So far, the books on Litfy only be read via the web, but in this month they plan to launch the service as an app on Iphone and Android.

Standing out in what promises to be a crowded market will be vital, according to Denize.

”First and foremost, we decided we had to develop a solution that is simple and quick," he explains.

"You can make margin notes and add your own bookmarks, but you can also share lists and notes with other users and users can also discuss topics and texts with each other on forums."

Revenue will come from a combination of advertising and subscriptions, just like Spotify, says Denize.

They expect to be able to offer the platform on a ”white label” basis as well as under their own brand.

”What makes it so exciting is that we are in an industry going through change on an almost daily basis and nobody can really predict with great certainty where it will go next," says Denize.

"We want to see this project through and show that if it is done the right way, it can be successful."

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