Like all small enterprises, Matt’s team is a tight one! “People on the team? That’s an interesting one… it’s pretty much entirely been me developing the software. Some developer friends have been providing invaluable feedback, and acting as Quality Assurance. My wife’s been doing the business admin side of things and providing endless cups of tea. Actually, even my mother’s been helping out (she’s a book editor and keen reader), she’s been providing ‘mini-review notes’ – a bit like the cards you see on shelves in bookshops – for featured books.
I’ve led something of a double life, working both in publishing and as an IT consultant in the Finance world in London; so it made sense to eventually combine the two. So in January I took an extended hiatus from the finance world and stayed at home to develop Inkflash. I had to learn 3D programming, as I hadn’t done any of that beforehand (though I’ve been programming commercially for 20 years).”
What could be the key to Inkflash’s success, is Matt’s understanding of the publishing business. He told us, “I set up Fingerpress.co.uk (a London-based book publisher) a few years ago; initially as a sideline, though it’s taken on a life of its own. For example, the historical novels by Fredrik Nath – such as the Roman ‘Galdir’ saga and his World War II novels – have been selling in the tens of thousands on Kindle. Using Fingerpress as Inkflash’s first “customer” – to eat my own dog food, in other words – has helped to guide the site’s development, so that it’s based on what publishers and authors would want from a site like this.”
Without question one of the sites strengths is its ability to aggregate what may be random reviews from different areas of the web. As Matt explains, “I know there’s a certain level of disgruntlement in the industry (and among readers) about ‘crowd-sourced’ book reviews. It’s something Amazon does try to clamp down on every now and again so this isn’t a criticism of them; but just the nature of crowd-sourced reviews means that it’s rather easy to game the system. That, plus ‘non-professional’ reviewers who post a 1-star review because they didn’t like that their favourite character died, or zombie books aren’t their thing (so why were they reading a zombie novel in the first place?). So it all becomes rather misleading. By contrast, carefully adding review sources such as book blogs and review websites makes it virtually impossible to game the system. We developed an in-house web-crawling engine that links reviews, author interviews etc back to their respective books, and it works really well. Inkflash shows a series of review excerpts and activities next to each book – it gives people a sense of the ‘Internet zeitgeist’ for a particular book – and in return the reviewers/bloggers get inbound link traffic to their site.
The review aggregation could turn out to be one of those quiet innovations that ends up being more important than the Virtual Reality (VR) stuff – although I’m pretty excited about the VR stuff too.”
To set up your own room, that can contain your own books as well as your favourite reads, pop over to Inkflash.com.
(c) Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin