June 4, 2012

Charleston - Based Bublish launched Book Discovery Website

Brendan Kearney  /  Post and Courier

Book publishing in Charleston entered the digital age when BookSurge launched its print-on-demand services in 2000. Amazon eventually bought BookSurge, merged it into CreateSpace and, in April, signed a lease to move hundreds of its employees into the old North Charleston City Hall.

The people behind BookSurge then founded another successful local digital publishing business, BiblioLabs. Now, two more Charleston bibliophile entrepreneurs are poised to carve out a niche in the fast-developing book business.

Tonight at the International Digital Publishing Forum in New York City, Kathy Meis and Charles Wyke-Smith will officially unveil Bublish, a book discovery web platform. The idea is people once relied on bookstore staff to curate what was worth reading. The Internet marketplace and the exponential growth of published books, however, has disrupted that model.

"Who's the new relationship builder in the online space?" asked Meis. "It's the author." Through Bublish, writers can post a piece of their work, annotate it with the origin or motivation behind the passage and enable that "bubble" to be shared via social media.

"This is 'reader meets book,' and as they meet the book, they also meet the story behind the story," Meis explained.

Once at Bublish, readers can learn more and either buy the book or refine their book preferences via keywords and, if the back-end artificial intelligence works, get pinpoint recommendations of other books they would enjoy.

Meis and Wyke-Smith thereby hope to solve the problem of book discovery in the 21st century. The service will be free for readers and for authors up to a certain threshold.

Bublish will offer a premium service for high-volume authors or publishers and also make money through ads and a percentage of book sales, Wyke-Smith explained. Meis, a former Forbes editor and freelance writer, came up with the concept.

Wyke-Smith, a veteran programmer, entrepreneur and author, joined the project earlier this year, helped refine and expand it, and will serve as chief executive officer. Web developers in Argentina and a pair of local interns fill out the team.