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As a designer, you conceive your design with the core values of a project in mind; you strive to reflect the ideas and feelings behind it. Contrary to that, the first lesson in web development is always separate your design from your code. It’s important that projects be flexible. A myriad number of screen sizes and devices mean the “presentation layer” should be designed to change, particularly when you use web technology. Moreover, partnerships will impact your design.

Aaron and I have been making websites for 15 years, so we get that. Most people don’t know it, but what we’ve built at BookGlutton is flexible in many ways. Easiest to change is the look and feel. Over the years we’ve had a number of conversations about offering our “BookClub in a Can,” the ability to export the social experience to other sites, so they can curate their own book clubs. Business considerations and content deals ultimately kept these projects from launching, and BookGlutton remained a destination site. But it’s fascinating to see how associating the reading experience with a different brand affects your relationship to it.

ANSWERBAG

ANSWERBAG

GOODREADS

Skinning the Reader takes almost no time at all. However, it changes the experience significantly. The Reader takes on the trappings of that community.

TOR

ELLE

All the mockups listed here preserved the buttons and layout, but even that can change. It makes for interesting consideration. Sometimes these mockups were presented in meetings; sometimes the discussion ended prematurely. See more skins, as well as the original BookGlutton design on Flickr.

A good reason to go digital?

Bed Bugs at the NY Public Library

I moved to NYC four months ago, and not a week goes by without a warning about the bed bug epidemic. Beware movie theaters! Avoid used-book stores! Leave abandoned furniture where it lies! I hear all these warnings, and I often think of the library.

I’m a library person. Growing up, I spent rainy Saturdays wandering the poorly lit stacks of vintage sci-fi. I loved it. When I was planning my move, I specifically thought about the New York Public Library. I imagined myself beating the summer heat in a cool corner, flipping though a book I surreptitiously happened upon.

With all the hype, I haven’t visited the library at all. It’s a shame. I’m sure the library is doing everything it can to combat the outbreak. Maybe all my information is hearsay and conjecture. Either way, considering my options has made me aware of one benefit digital books have over their print counterparts: they’re bug-free. (Well, at least the infectious-kind.)

One last note: since I work in the start-up world, I’m obligated to break my moratorium on movie theaters this weekend, in order to see The Social Network (even if I have to stand up the whole time). I’d imagine the library is only a matter of time.

August BookGlutton Newsletter

If you missed our August newsletter, read it here. We recently moved our office to NYC, which is inspirational, practical, and down right fun. You can now find us at DogPatch Labs, near Union Square. We’re looking for partners who want to add social reading to their content (or socially-read content to their site). So contact us.

BookGlutton's New Home

This week Mashable posted an article “Social Experience is the Future of Online Content

What really stands out is the phrase “Content acquisition alone can’t be the final answer.” This is true, and something you’ll hear us saying frequently at BookGlutton. Don’t get me wrong, we spend quite a lot of time in meetings acquiring content for our readers – it’s important to have the right books. But that will never be a major differentiating factor. Publishers want to sell through multiple channels in order to reach the maximum number of users.

For free books this is already obvious. You can download Winnie the Pooh from almost any online reading system or bookstore (it even comes pre-packaged with Apple’s iBookstore). No one seeks out the store that has this specific book. As time goes on no one will be going to a particular store to get Random House books or Penguin Classics just because that’s the only place to get them. Instead they’ll be available almost anywhere, and you’ll be going for the experience. The user interface, the animation, the ability to connect with others and share your thoughts, will be what really matters.

That said, I have to caution: don’t confuse experience with features. In many reading systems, features can be the equivalent of Photoshop filters, cool to play with but only really used on occasion. Many reviewers like to tally up features, as if the program with the most wins (one only needs to look at the success of Apple’s software to see simplicity and alignment with user needs can win out). After all, the ability to make your font purple is nice, but most users are more about utility and connection than customization. I know there are some that may disagree – I have a friend who would read everything in Adobe Jenson Pro if he could (though I often wonder if he would bother to change every application he installs to do so). But in the end the most successful tools in life are ones that fit in with how you live your life. And that’s something we’ve believed in for some time.

At BookGlutton we spend a lot of time thinking about what the future will look like. We’ve been building the current site for a few years now, and have pretty serious ideas about where that future is going. Like all prognosticators, we can’t take into account every surprise, but we’re sure about a few things.

1. The web is the future.
2. Connections to social networks are a significant, serious piece of our lives. They will continue to be important (Ze Frank had a great presentation at Internet Week New York on this point).
3. Books are an enduring way we transfer big ideas. They may become digital, but they’re not going away.

Last week Kevin Rose, founder of Digg, posted this video about what he’d like to see in the future of reading. For users of BookGlutton, many of the points may sound a little familiar (parts of 2, 3, and 5 are alive and well at BookGlutton). Good to know some great minds are in agreement.

You can use BookGlutton by opening Safari and heading to http://www.bookglutton.com.

Great news! BookGlutton has been named a Webby Award Honoree in the Community Category. They tell us out of a whopping 10,000 entries submitted to the 14th Annual Webby Awards, less than 15% are awarded the status of Official Honoree. Entries came from all 50 states and over 60 countries worldwide. It’s a big deal, and we’re humbled by it. Moreover, there are only two book sites listed this year – our partner Goodreads is the only other one we found. Represent!

This isn’t the first time BG has gotten a little Webby Love. In 2008 we were a bona fide finalist in the same Category (Community), against some of the heavyweights that are up there again: Flickr and COLOURlovers. We wrote about it here and here.

What else can we say, except THANK YOU! to our USERS and the folks at the WEBBYS.

It ain’t Christmas but it might feel like it over at BookGlutton HQ: all through the month of April, the large square ads on BookGlutton.com are HALF OFF! It’s a great deal. You send us a 250 x 250 image or, heck, we’ll even design it for you, and then in under 48 hours it’s in the site ad rotation.

If you are a writer or publisher this is a great opportunity to target real readers. Announce an upcoming book, link to your author site, point to your blog – there are many options. Here’s the Standard Ad size:

What does an ad cost?

1 month = $100 $50
3 months = $250 $125

Can you give me more info about BookGlutton?

Sure. BookGlutton Factoids:

  • Ads appear on the book detail pages
  • About 140,000 people visit the site a month
  • Most traffic comes from North America, Europe, Russia and Australia, but there isn’t a country that doesn’t show up

For more information or to sign up, check out our ad page, or get to it at any time under “Advertise” in the footer.

Publishers! BookGlutton has a free content management system that reads EPUB, incorporates Onix, and uses the agency model. The BookGlutton Publisher Program lets you:

* -Maintain your publisher profile page
* -Interact directly with your readers and customers
* -Maintain a catalog of your EPUB titles
* -Instantly publish on a per-title basis
* -Control whether your files may be downloaded or not
* -Set your own prices on titles, changing them at any time
* -See real-time sales reports across all titles
* -Receive notifications whenever a title is sold

The basic steps to selling books with us are:

1. After signing up for the Publisher Program, upload a DRM-free EPUB file (for those not using an Onix feed).

2. Set any metadata not contained in the file, including price and cover image. You can set an ISBN to pull in GoodReads reviews, adjust price at any time, flip on download-capability using this menu.

3. Preview and publish the title, from the same menu.

You’ll always have a page that tells you which titles have sold the most, how much you’ve made, and what you’re owed. You can also set different email address to handle sales notifications and follow requests.

You automatically get a Publisher Page: post a logo, use the wall for announcements, manage followers, and show recently added books.

Signing up to become a publisher is easy and can be done at the bottom of any page

We’ve tricked out the BookGlutton content feed for Stanza! Check it out on your iPhone by downloading the Stanza App and going to Online Catalog > Books from BookGlutton.

Drilling down through the catalog to a Book Detail Page shows off the new design. Now you can tell how many times the book has been read on BookGlutton (Opens) and how many people have checked out the Detail Page on BookGlutton.com (Views). We also touched up the design to have more emphasis on cover art.

Scroll down to get detailed information, like a longer description, as well as the option to jump out to the BookGlutton.com mobile site. It opens in Safari, right inside Stanza! If, on the off chance, a publisher hasn’t cleared something for download, you can still access it inside Stanza – it just opens it via the mobile site right here. For most books, Stanza’s built in functionality is the norm, though, and you can download the title, just like you always have.

The new catalog arrangement now has the ability to find books by Publisher, as well as by Catalog. “Catalog?” you ask? Well, yes. The Unbound Reader on BookGlutton.com allows you to import from additional catalogs, so you can now do that here as well. Moreover, the Genres now match what you see on the BookGlutton site.

Finally, don’t forget the Surprise Me link!

Miss the January Newsletter? Read it HERE. Last month we introduced the mobile site, as well as updated you on recent press happenings, new books and helper videos.