Startup Showcase: Biblioboard
"I've been waiting my whole career to sell something like this," says Mitchell Davis of BiblioBoard, a platform that helps libraries and institutions create and sell elegant multimedia anthologies and "exhibits" from their catalogs and collections.
Davis is a veteran of Amazon: He sold his first company, Book Surge, an integrated publishing and print-on-demand platform, to the Seattle etailer in 2005 and then went to work for them. In 2007, says Davis, the original founders of Book Surge got back together in their hometown of Chareston, S.C., to start BiblioLabs with the focus of reducing the costs of making historical books available via POD.
"We didn't do much with digital in the early days," says Davis, "because most of the devices were E Ink and we just didn't think they would do justice to historical artifacts. The iPad changed all of that."
The company's first digital product, The British Library's 19th Century Historical Books app (which made the institution's 65,000 digitized books from that period available globally to subscribers), was launched in 2011. It was downloaded 250,000 times in its first two weeks of availability and has tens of thousands of users.
"It was a creative and critical success," says Davis. "But we really hadn't figured out how to scale it and turn it into a sustainable business. We put all of our learning from that project into BiblioBoard."
With the subsequent launch of BiblioBoard Creator, a free authoring tool, the company has lowered the cost and infrastructure barriers to turning rich historical information into curated collections. "We're talking to some publishers," says Davis, "but we're mostly focusing on libraries, museums, historical societies and associations—anyone who has digitized historical objects that maybe they're making available on the web in some kind of older-school way but who don't really have the budget nor the will, honestly, to do the tech project management to build native apps to distribute content on devices."
Once content sets are created and made available for sale on the BiblioBoard app, the company shares revenue with the creating institutions. Libraries can also subscribe to BiblioBoard as a database and allow patrons access to the content. "Everything that the library subscribes to shows up on the patron's tablet," says Davis. "And there's no concept of check-out and returns and all the other things that force libraries to deliver a chunky experience on a tablet."
"We don't have Fifty Shades of Grey or James Patterson," says Davis of BiblioBoard's aims. "What we have is historical artifacts that have been curated by experts. "