BEA Promotes Publishing Innovation at Startup Challenge
Although much of BookExpo America's discourse seemed colored by the ongoing Amazon-Hachette dispute, there were a number of events that exuded optimism and excitement for the future. Among these was the Startup Challenge, a competition that highlighted the innovation of 18 startups hoping to make their mark on the publishing industry.
This was the inaugural run of the competition at BEA, launched in recognition of the need for more collaboration among the publishing and tech sectors. The startups occupied their own section of the exhibit floor, Startup Alley, where they pitched to publishers and challenge judges in the first round of the competition. Six finalists advanced to the second round, answering questions from an audience of approximately 100 publishing executives at BEA's "Downtown Stage." The two winning startups, Next Big Book and Qlovi, took home cash prizes of $10,000 and $3,000, respectively.
Book Business spoke with some of the finalists to learn about their experience in the Challenge and the innovations they hope to bring to the publishing industry.
Next Big Book Applies Its Analytics Expertise to Publishing
Challenge winner Next Big Book is the new arm of successful company Next Big Sound. The analytics company tracks social data, sales data, and marketing events in the music industry to predict future chart-toppers. Similarly Next Big Book hopes to show publishers what is driving their book sales.
Along with the challenge win, Next Big Book announced a major partnership with Macmillan at BEA. The partnership, says co-founder and CEO Alex White, was in part the result of a connection initially made through Next Big Sound. "An executive from Sony Music, our first major label client, moved to Macmillan," explains White, "We kept in touch and later realized that our technology was just what the publisher was looking for to bring data to their sales and marketing teams worldwide."
Continues White: "I applaud BEA for hosting such a startup challenge and encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship in the industry."
Bookmate Brings Ebooks to Untapped Markets
Moscow-based Bookmate is spreading ebooks to developing markets through an online, ebook subscription model and sees an opportunity that publishers have yet to tap. "We're trying to show U.S. publishers that they are losing business opportunities in markets beyond the States," says Irena Sheveleva, content lead at Bookmate, "And they need to start looking in that direction."
Bookmate targets several developing markets, including Russia, the Ukraine, and Turkey. These markets tend to have a few things in common, says Sheveleva: few people purchase ebooks due to high expense, ebook piracy is rampant, and the ebook market has yet to become fully saturated. "We are becoming the primary solution for readers when we enter the market," says Sheveleva, "And they start ereading with us."
James Appell, head of international content acquisition at Bookmate, was glad BEA was trying to connect traditional publishers and technologists. "[That partnership] can only be mutually beneficial," says Appell, "Given this point of view, we look forward to the time -- hopefully in the very near future -- where digital companies are not given their own 'Startup Alley' at BEA, but instead are seamlessly integrated into the publishing landscape.
Metadata Made Simple Through Kadaxis Automation
Discoverability, one of the biggest hurdles of the digital age and a frequent topic of conversation at BEA, relies on good metadata. But gathering good metadata from a 60,000-plus-word book, says Chris Sim, challenge finalist and CEO of Kadaxis, is no easy feat. "Search engines typically don't index an entire book like they do with a web page. So it's up to the editor or author to choose what elements of the book to describe in the limited amount of metadata available to them."
Kadaxis hopes to solve this problem by automating as much of the metadata process as possible. Right now the company is testing phase one of its automation process -- extracting metadata from entire works -- and is working with several publishers and authors to do this. The second phase, which Sim hopes to test in the near term, involves optimizing that extracted metadata with search engines and SEO providers, hence Kadaxis' handle, "SEO for books."
"We'll be launching our product later this year," says Sim, "So watch this space!" Currently, publishers or authors interested in metadata automation can sign up for Kadaxis' private beta.
Look for more challenge startups on the pages of Book Business, including guest blogs from Bookmate and Library for All. Also, keep an eye on our new blog, The Futurists, which is dedicated to showcasing the latest startups in the industry.