Novellic Builds Book Club Communities On- And Offline With Meetup-Like App
U.K.-based Novellic is tackling the dual challenges of book discovery and connecting with like-minded individuals through its newly launched book club app. It's part meetup tool for users to organize book club meetings and book recommendation platform where different clubs can review and share their latest reads. The app launched on the UK App Store in May. In the following interview founder Candide Kirk explains how Novellic was created and why it’s a powerful tool for nurturing reading communities.
What is Novellic and how does it work?
Novellic is an app to find, create, and join book clubs. When you sign up, you tell us a little bit about the book genres you enjoy reading and that helps us personalize a curated book store to your particular taste. You can then browse and join book clubs either by location or by how often they meet up or by the types of books they read. You can also create your own book club for others to join and Novellic provides tools such as next read polling, an offline meetup organizer, group chat, and direct messaging so you can keep in touch with your new friends and keep the club running smoothly between meetups.
What problem are you solving?
For readers we’re creating focal points for social reading. Whether you’re a young professional, recently retired, or newly moved to a city, books are great human connectors and in part we view Novellic as a friending app. On the other hand, the more you read the pickier you tend to get and rather than sifting through thousands and thousands of listings we’re putting book discovery back in a social context. A book page on Novellic tells you who has favorited this title and also what book clubs are reading it. Through these human connections book recommendations take on a more personalized and curated feel.
Novellic is different in that it is equally online and offline. Our book club tools include a messaging platform to stay in touch but also a meetup organizer to get together for that wine night once a month. Similarly with the books, we’re currently promoting ebook purchases from within the app but are adding support for paper book ordering with next day delivery. We are solving a real world problem (making friends, finding a good book to read) through digital tools and in that sense are following in trends set outside of the book publishing industry, such as Uber or Tinder or even Deliveroo. For the launch of our beta on the UK App Store we threw a massive book swap party where everyone brought along their favorite paperback -- that offline, tangible aspect of book socializing is the cornerstone of what Novellic is digitally.
How did you come up with this idea?
Content today is more of a fluid concept than ever before. We talk about stand-alone, enhanced ebooks with interactive features on one end, and on games with richer storytelling and linear plotlines on the other, and we find that the line between the two media blurs.
My co-founder and I spent over ten years developing video games across different consoles and platforms. When we started out we were distributing our games on disk in physical retail outlets. Over the years, we shifted with the industry to digital sales channels and more mobile formats, but more importantly we had to reinvent our business models and our relationship with our customers. In game design you start with the user’s emotion and design backwards to the mechanic. What we’re doing with Novellic is using this game design methodology by placing the reader first -- what would make book commerce more engaging? A network of trusted recommendations? Better curation? Less clutter? By answering these questions and building on the book club tradition, Novellic evolved into the app it is today.
What are the most important trends in publishing today?
The first digital revolution for the publishing industry is over and the most interesting areas to watch now are where publishers are joining forces with other media to face the next set of digital challenges. We’ve already seen large publishers make their moves but the more interesting projects will come from smaller, more agile independent publishers as they look outside of publishing to experiment and innovate.
One of the greatest aspects of social media and digital platforms is the accessibility to the reader -- where traditional publishing was a B2B industry selling mostly to wholesalers and retailers, we’re now seeing more intimate connections between authors and their readers which publishers can capitalize on.
Who is your competition?
It’s impossible to think of a social network for books without mentioning Goodreads, even though the offering and reader experience is so vastly different. We also look to the likes of meetup.com for the online/offline tools and the community building aspect of Novellic. But more importantly, and because of our mobile-first approach, our competition is the plethora of apps on the App Store and the growth challenge for us is to carve out a space in a very noisy marketplace.
Our strategy for the coming few months is to roll out Novellic on a city-by-city basis, establishing a network of book clubs in each location as we go along and supporting the growth through the offline bookish events that cement the community and set the stage for the book clubs to organically grow out of these events.