Superbooks are websites 🏺

Superbooks are websites 🏺

  • superbooks
  • 4 minutes
  • February 14, 2019

As someone pitching their startup 24/7, I’m often asked: What is Superbook?

How is it different from other e-book formats? And almost immediately my heart jumps in excitement to tell them:

Yes, all books on Bubblin, i.e. Superbooks are functional websites!

Let that sink in for a moment.

Great! 🙂

Now let’s take a look at some of the main differences to understand what kind of impact we are talking about here:

Accessibile first

First off, traditional e-books are ‘format files’ that need to be downloaded off the web before people can start reading. This is a huge pain for those who spend loads of their active time online. An inaccessibility in of itself. In comparison to a file, a Superbook is printed straight on web. On a url that is not only easy to share but also to reason about because readers are able to get to the first line of the book almost immediately.

Besides, oftentimes accessing a traditional e-book is also not just a ‘download’ away. The step is further compounded with other extra barriers like expecting the user to share their email address, validate that email or by sharing some personal information before they can lay hands on the file.

Compare that with sharing Taylor Swift’s new single on Youtube. How accessible is that!

With files there can be many other micro-barriers as well.

Format incompatibilities come to the mind first. The user has to parse and identify the right format for their setup. Then click on the correct link to download. Wait for the download to complete and then navigate to the artifact on disk using a finder. Doubleclick to open the file on some reader software (or app) that was installed earlier, then wait for the reader to open the file again until it displays the file to begin reading. Phew. That is a lot of work!

No wonder most people end up buying the physical book instead!

Offline first

Another super awesome quality of a Superbook is that it goes offline the moment you open the book for reading. For this we use a simple service worker. What this means is that no Internet connection is required to read the book once it has been opened by the reader and the book will continue to work normally without the user needing to download anything explicitly. How cool is that!?

I don’t know about others but having my books displayed online helps me avoid Tsundoku. It helps me get out of the habit of downloading a file to the disk and then never coming back to it again. Web not makes it easy to share and but also easy to refer later.

The conversation starter

One of the best qualities of a physical book is that it is a great conversation starter. The annotations, the comments, the ability to pinch around the story with page numbers to refer and share. That kind of discussion is not possible with traditional e-books because the content reflows.

A Superbook on the other hand is able to provide referential accessibility. In my opinion this is a single most important quality of a Superbook that could be a game changer in the long run. Imagine, you and I sharing page number 510 of the Pride and Prejudice to see exactly what Ms. Elizabeth says to Mr. Darcy when she is unhappy.

It is literally about being on the same page. On web!

Software no more

Nearly every e-book format out there requires people to install additional software–an app or a utility–a reader application that doubles as a file manager. Other formats mean buying proprietary hardware to be able to read books—like the Kindle or the Kobo. What this setup leads to is an industry-wide fragmentation with a bunch of islands with the same books over and over again. Users are left stranded on each of these islands far away from each other with no way of knowing what books others are into or are missing in-between.

In my opinion wading through a mollases of a file driven non-web community is not just bad for books, it is also a far cry from the original promise of software. The pathology of driving people to download a file masquerading as an e-book is itself twisted. A strategy of the 90s that must be done away with.

Salient features

Try this demo book on your desktop, iPad and mobile. Resize your browser to see content scaling in action.

The Superbook form solves the textbook definition of a codex style book gracefully with suppport across all major browsers. Since the paginated content of a Superbook is always available above the fold, the book remains visually accessible at all times unlike a deep long scroll that grows deeper on mobile.

Here is a list advantages of a Superbook over other options:

  1. No effort to download, navigate and manage files.
  2. No headache of format support or compatibility issues.
  3. Semantic markup that is easily searchable (Google, Yahoo or Bing) over the web.
  4. Page-wise referential accessibility.
  5. Super responsive illustrations and clean web-compatible typography.
  6. Strong layouts as opposed to fixed or fluid layout.
  7. Pretty shareable urls with page numbers to link to.
  8. Line-tracking and flexible formatting with candid control over orphans and widows.
❀ ❈ ❀

That’s not all. There are advantages of a Superbook over physical books too:

  1. Zero cost distribution.
  2. Instant readership and social sharing.
  3. Dynamic content and visual experimentation.
  4. Embeddable videos and widgets.
  5. Better line-tracking, format handling and accessibility.
  6. Global URI driven namespacing.
  7. Better royalties and large spread.
  8. Ability to collaborate with developers and designers for advanced storytelling.

A Superbook can easily go fullscreen with a click of a button and the content scales as if it was printed on rubbery spandex as opposed to a traditional file where it is either a fixed layout or a fluid one. Superbooks are also iPad first and supported on all major browsers, operating systems and devices.

Written by: Marvin Danig, CEO of Bubblin Superbooks. Follow me here on Twitter!

Reviewed by: Sonica Arora, CTO of Bubblin Superbooks and Anup Bishnoi, @Netflix.

P.S.: It is likely that some of you read this blog on your desktop. That’s a bit outdated. Try flipping a Superbook on the iPad. Be bad to the bone! ⛷️

About the author

Sonica Arora

A tree hugger at heart. Code, stories & coffee.