TLDR; Meet Bubblin Superbooks–A modern book reader for web. ✨.
[Let a bazillion 🎉🎉🎉’s pop, and the 🍾🍾🍾 flow and a million 🎊 🎊 🎊 fall to the ground… Yay!]
We’ve finally shipped this fun little project of ours and I am proud to confirm that our entire team—especially Ellie and Baxter—has worked very hard and poured only love into this. Hope you’ll like it and share a word or two about us with your friends. A special thanks to Ishita Chaudhuri, Anup Bishnoi and Satie Sharma for helping us review this post.
A heartfelt thanks to Sanjay Dastoor for everything that you’ve done to help us get this far.
We created Bubblin Superbooks to escape files masquerading as ebooks.
Before I explain what that even means, just pick up your iPad, flip open a book (link) and start reading a favorite. Like it? Welcome to Bubblin—the new home of free and beautiful books on web.
You can heart the books that you like, share it with your friends or publish a new work yourself. Or simply hangout with other book-lovers in the community. Bubblin let’s you enjoy books like never before, without ever needing you to leave the one place that we have collectively come to love so much—the web.
Bubblin is tablet first, though it is supported on almost every device on web. It’s layout scales from anywhere between an iWatch to an LCD TV, but we though it’s a bit outlandish to think of anyone wanting to read a book on their watch. On a mountain top may be?
Since Bubblin is all about reading longform, we wanted the books to go offline-first. How couldn’t we?! For this we use a simple Service Worker instance under each book to introduce “offline book reading on web.” Yes, this is what makes it very close to the experience of reading a real book offline!
Now let’s take a look at what escaping files masquerading as ebooks means:
A few weeks ago there was a very lively discussion around books on Twitter, when Patrick Collision of Stripe tweeted this:
“…If books really do matter in the world, feels like we’d benefit from a lot more reading technology. Getting books onto the screen was a good first step.”
And then Naval Ravikant dropped the following bomb:
“Books need to be opened up freely before we can properly annotate and cross-link them…”
So we thought what if the world wide web and the world of books were to be coalesced into a single unified resource? Then the possibilities, as Naval and others point out, could be unlimited. And fun. If books really do matter in the world, the there’s so much knowledge and insight to unlock here!
But what would such a solution look like?
Would it be open? Sure. Social, interesting! Annotable, definitely. Hyperlinkable, cool. Free? Absolutely!
Excitement aside, as developers, we need to be cautious. Stop to question at every step of the way. Like, am I talking sense here? Do I understand longform thoroughly enough to even take this up? How do people identify themselves with books? What are books made of? How are they made? Can web solve books and other forms of longform like it did the short essays and news articles with blogs?
Getting books onto the screen was a good first step but is that screen a part of the web? If not, what will a book look like on web? A website or a blog or a PDF? Or do we need pagination of some sort for it, or an infinite scroll will do? How will accessibility work here?
Do I need to apply First Principles Thinking  here? If yes, what would it take to build books ground up for the web?
And that brings us to the opening statement of this blogpost above: Are books and files equal?
If not, then why should an enterprise-y file continue fill and hurt this space of a beautiful consumer product?
Thus, out with files, enter Superbooks. After analysing hundreds of pros and cons, and noting several concerns  that there are relating to ebooks, we’ve emerged out of this rabbit-hole with a fairly simple solution. Display books straight on the browser with an offline-first guarantee. Step away from the obsoleted pointer-driven thinking and adapt ourselves for a new web that already lives and is thriving among our children: Meet the iPad.
Now there is a lot going on with this little project of ours, and not everything is cool or even easy to reason about at the moment. We aren’t even sure of what we’re getting ourselves into at some of the places… but for now, for this launch today, we have what we have, we have what it is. So happy birthday Bubblin Superbooks!
What’s your take on it? Please drop your feedback in comments below!
What do you prefer generally?
If you’re like me, you probably prefer physical books over electronic. I know, a lot of developers do.
Physical books feel so much nicer. I find them much easier to read from, despite the dent it makes on my wallet and probably on the environment (sic) too. It’s relaxing to sit back or lie down on the couch, turn away from the rush and turn the pages instead, objectively to soak in the story gradually.
The whole thing takes me to a state of a heightened consciousness or sleep, whichever is more warranted. And I quite like that!
Note, the pace of reading is important here. Page turns tamp down my reading speed in a way that I can learn and remember better. It’s like achieving terminal velocity during a high adrenaline driven skydive from sixteen thousand feet. Once you’re cruising at top speed, it is time to look around, soak in the view and enjoy the vastness. Build great memories along the way.
Isn’t that why it’s called a “memory palace” building exercise?
Superbook means Superclass  of a book, comics or a magazine.
Superbooks use Strong Layouts  to scale content.
You can publish a Superbook directly on Bubblin or to your own website using Bookiza .