news updates & improvements

What’s next in bookleteer’s evolution?

Following our major updates of last year – the user API, bookreader and integration of QR codes and short URLs bridging the physical/digital divide – we’ve been concentrating on using bookleteer in our own projects like Agencies of Engagement, Material Conditions, Professor Starling’s Thetford-London-Oxford Expedition and Pallion Ideas Exchange, helping others create their own eBooks and StoryCubes and generally getting on with the business of keeping things going through these tough times.

More recently we’ve had some time and space to think about what else bookleteer could do and how we might make some adjustments to improve its usefulness. Over the past month or so, these ideas have been gestating into actual plans, scenarios, requirements and site maps for our next round of upgrades and improvements. And these themselves follow the price drop for Short Run printing of A6 books, as well the new minimum eBook print run of just 25 copies, which we recently announced.

Going Public
The first change we plan to implement will be to allow users to publicly share their eBooks and StoryCubes direct from bookleteer. Members of the public will, for the first time, be able to browse (without needing an account) library pages containing links to eBooks and StoryCubes which users have shared. We also hope to build in simple social media links to enable these pages to be tweeted or shared on Facebook. And sharing via bookreader will also be available to all members. In addition to this, and reflecting our own practice of publishing series of eBooks and StoryCubes, we plan to create Collections – a new way to organise own eBooks or StoryCubes into named and distinct series.

Making bookleteer Economically Sustainable
To keep bookleteer going we need to encourage more people to use the Short Run Printing Service service to print their eBooks and StoryCubes. Other than donations to the Alpha Club this is the only source of income to pay for our hosting, bandwidth, development and maintenance costs. As you may have heard, Proboscis no longer receives funding from Arts Council England so we are having to find sustainable sources of income for projects like bookleteer. If we can significantly drive uptake of the Short Run printing service, then we hope to sustain bookleteer as a platform indefinitely. To help people with ordering we’re already working on building in pricing estimation direct into the ordering page. This should make it much simpler to see print estimates when you are considering using the Short Run Printing service.

Pledge For Print
This leads on to the biggest and most exciting aspect of what we’re planning. A couple of years back I wrote a post speculating on how a crowdfunding marketplace within bookleteer could transform the way people create, print and share their publications. We have been working on a model for such a concept – allowing users to offer Collections of eBooks or StoryCubes for others to “Pledge For Print“. We won’t be handling financial transactions to begin with, simply creating a mechanism for users who want to print an edition of 1 more more eBooks or StoryCubes (in a Collection) to know that there are people out there who will pledge to buy a copy from them once its printed. Ultimately we would aim to build in a full crowdfunding-type system, accepting pledges and automating the process of collecting donations once the pledge target has been reached to trigger the print run & shipping. Its a huge project for us – but we think it will transform bookleteer and publishing on demand in the process.

Community Support is Vital
To fund the development we’re hoping to entice more friends, fellow travellers and supporters to donate and join the Alpha Club and take an active part in the developing ‘community’ of bookleteers. We’re also aiming to attract a main sponsor for bookleteer – a company or organisation which shares our values and ethos of creating Public Goods and enabling people to make and share hybrid physical/digital stuff. If you also think what we’re planning could be the next best thing since sliced bread – please donate today!

And do please get in touch with your feedback, comments and suggestions.

ideas & suggestions publishing on demand

crowdfunding publications

The estimable Alex Steffen, founder of, has recently announced a new project – Carbon Zero: A Short Tour of Your City’s Future – which he’s attempting to fund through the crowdfunding site kickstarter. This is a really interesting idea and something we’re keen to investigate ourselves, having had some small success with our own Alpha Club crowdfunding efforts. I wrote last year about investigating the ways in which crowdfunding could be linked to forms of rapid publishing like bookleteer’s short run printing service to make it even more accessible to people who just want to produce a small number of books without having to bear all the costs up front.

Alex’s project is on a bigger scale than this, and suggests a very different approach to the problem of funding the time required to research and write the books, not just print them. This has some obvious and interesting implications for publishing as a whole, and for other creative endeavours as well. The concept seems so simple – the people who want to read his book also pay for the writing of it – but which has some other subtle implications. Usually we buy books (or other media) after the fact of writing – the burden of supporting the artist or writer is usually absorbed through some form of patronage (via public grants or private sponsorship), or through the personal dedication and effort of the individual themselves. But asking the readers to pay for more than the cost of the book, to support the very effort of making is to ask people to become part of the process. It establishes the possibility of creative work being seen in dialogue with others, as a craft, not just as something which appears magically from an aloof and remote genius. More and more the previously mysterious and detached processes of creative people are being acted out in ways that allow others to take part in some way or be witness. It is an empowering and transformational process that I believe gives hope to others that their own forms of expression may also have value. This is not about the distinction between amateur and professional or high/low art – tired debates now – but about that scope for the craft, skill and impact of creative people to be seen in relation to the work of others and valued in new and meaningful ways.

bookleteer is part of a toolset we have been building for more than a decade for public authoring and to enable cultures of listening. These tools are sometimes techniques which we develop to help people combine other media, to figure out how to create their own tools as much as use ones we may have introduced them too. What Alex is demonstrating with this project is not only how to use such tools, but how to create a community around the process of making too. With our new programme of projects, Public Goods, which we start next month too, we are hoping to engage people in similar processes of taking part in the construction and sharing of cultures and cultural artefacts that they value. Our new series of City As Material events in towns across the UK and abroad will be an important part of setting the frame for this kind of dialogue and collaboration, and perhaps a way for us to explore crowdfunding in direct collaboration with the people who want to contribute and participate.

Alex is aiming to reach his goal or raising $10,000 by Earth Day, Thurs April 14th – he’s more than 50% of thew way there (at time of writing). I do recommend supporting him as the results (judging from the wonderful 2nd edition of the Wordchanging book just published) are bound to be great.


Crowdfunding bookleteer

As mentioned in a post I wrote a couple of weeks ago, we’re hard at work building the ‘beta’ version of bookleteer to make it simpler to use, more robust and developing new features to make it even more useful. However, this does come at a cost and we’re low on funds to pay for the costs of programming and hosting the service.

Last Autumn we set up the Alpha Club as an experiment in asking friends and supporters to help us ‘crowdfund’ some of the costs associated with developing bookleteer. So far almost two thousand pounds has been donated to the project, but its a long way short of the £10,000+ in programming fees and costs we’re on course to spend in 2010 – do please make a donation if you enjoy using it and want to support us. As an added sweetener, we’ll send a special pack of the brand new, larger StoryCubes to anyone who donates £25 or more and joins the Alpha Club in September and October. Members also get discounts on any PPOD orders that they make for professionally printed eBooks & StoryCubes.

Please get in touch to join Alpha Club or make a secure donation via Paypal:

New Medium Size StoryCubes

bookleteer now has several hundred members signed up and using it, over 210 followers on twitter and around 115 followers on facebook. We’d love to see more people join this growing community of bookleteers creating and sharing their books and StoryCubes – please feel free to sign up for an account and get bookleteering.

publishing on demand

Crowdfunded Publishing with bookleteer : a concept

Here at Proboscis we are very excited by the quality of the new PPOD service we’re offering users of bookleteer, but we also recognise that there are still economic barriers to people wanting to break into publishing their own eBooks & StoryCubes. Despite our ground-breaking service offering low-run printing (from only 50 copies per title, much lower than the industry standard of 500 or 1,000 copies) this still requires bookleteers to pay up front for printed versions of their eBooks & StoryCubes. Our aim is to open up publishing with bookleteer by removing as many of the traditional barriers as possible.

With bookleteer you can currently create shareable eBooks and StoryCubes that you can send or allow people to download anywhere in the world at no cost; you can also have high quality professionally printed & bound versions made. Our pricing for this has been set to make it as affordable as possible, so that users can sell on their printed eBooks/StoryCubes and add their own profit margin. But, for many people, the cost of printing even just 50 copies might be more than they can afford or justify on the basis of anticipated (or hoped for) future sales.

In trying to resolve the puzzle of how to allow people to use bookleteer not just to create things which they pay for, but which also allows them to earn money from their creativity, we’re now researching a concept for a crowdfunded marketplace. What we’d like to implement in the future (possibly in the beta version later this year) would be a bookleteer marketplace where the users can submit their eBooks and StoryCubes (either individually or a series / collections). We imagine that the user will set the retail price of the publication, add an ISBN number (if they have one) and set a target number of sales to be achieved before the publication will be printed via our PPOD service.

The marketplace would be public for anyone to browse and, using some kind of crowdfunding platform, pledge to buy a copy or copies of the eBooks/StoryCubes. Payments from buyers would be held in escrow until the sales threshold is reached and the printing and shipping of the publication triggered. At that point we would transfer the creator’s share of the sales to them (minus our printing & shipping costs). If there aren’t enough pledges within a given time frame to trigger the printing, then the buyer’s money would be returned to them. This approach, also called threshold pledging, would reduce the risk to both creator and buyer.

We are just at the very beginning of developing this concept and its going to require more resources and expertise than are currently available to us to actually turn into a reality – however we would really like to know what other people think of this. We’d love to hear from anyone with experience in building crowdfunding systems or using crowdfunding platforms to see if this is possible and what the average ratios are of successful to unsuccessful targets being reached.

We’d like to think that this idea could make it possible for anyone to be able to create a publication and have it professionally printed and bound without having to find the money to do so up front. With bookleteer they would be able to make the Diffusion eBook PDFs available for people to make their own handmade versions, then choose to buy the PPOD version (thereby economically supporting the creator). In this way we could create a whole new generation of publishers, crossing economic as well as cultural divides, allowing more people to find different ways of sharing their ideas, stories, knowledge, artworks – whatever they value and wish to share.