By Adam Fortuna
Hi book friends! The year is more than half over and the year seems to be flying by. As someone living in 100°+ F weather, I can’t wait for things to cool down so I can bring a book to the park and find a tree to read under (without being drenched in sweat).
July ended up being a huge month for Hardcover behind the scenes that we’re excited to share with you’ll.
As a reminder, we do these updates every month – starting with June and July of this year. We do these because we’re not a traditional startup. We’re a small group of passionate readers who want to share our excitement with the world.
So what is it that we’re most excited about right now?
We’re getting close to releasing a major Hardcover update that improves everything from search to performance, to user interface and everything in between. There isn’t a page on the site that hasn’t been touched in some way by this update.
If you’re a developer or someone who’s worked on the web, you know how daunting this kind of update can be. It’s so wide-ranging that we’re testing everything along the way. That includes testing on staging, and verifying things work well in both light mode and dark mode and on desktop and mobile.
It’s a huge task, but it’s the right time for it. As we’ve received more and more feedback about certain parts of the site, we’re improving what we can in one big release. This won’t solve every bug or add every missing feature, but it’ll be a great step forward.
If you’re on the Hardcover Discord, you may have seen some of these screens we’ve been working on.
Here are a few updates that we’re releasing this month.
Side note: genres, moods, and content warnings can all be marked as “spoilers”. We blur all content warnings as spoilers as well as any moods and genres that have a “spoiler score” above a certain point.
We initially planned to release search and the new book page separately. The more we started using search the more we realized we absolutely needed to update the book page too.
Also, that cover image? 😍 We’re planning to show different cover images based on the genre of a book. For some popular books (or authors who join Hardcover), we can also create some custom images. This process will be manual for now, but we have a few ideas on how to do more.
Another area we’re updating is how we show lists of books (what we’re calling Book Groups internally – original, I know 😂). This new approach works for series, prompts, lists, books by status, or any group of books. This is specifically for when we need to show an abbreviated list from a larger group. These are different from Airlists, which are for when you want to dig deep. Book Groups are the preview.
If you’re logged in we’ll also mark which books you’ve read (the little green checkmark). If you hover over a book you can interact with it right from this page too.
Side note: “The Way of Kings” by Brandon Sanderson was #1 for the prompt “What are your favorite books of all time” when I took this screenshot. Since then The Lord of the Rings has taken over the top spot.
One of the parts of the book page that I’m most excited about is personalization. Part of a social book app is being able to easily see what your friends think of a book. Soon we’ll show this on the book page if you’re logged in.
Not everyone follows other readers, and that’s OK! We have you covered with our Reader Similarity Score. With that, we can show you ratings and reviews by readers with similar taste based on both your reading histories. If you look over those readers and see a lot of 5⭐ ratings, that’s a very positive sign that you’ll enjoy it too.
I’m incredibly excited about this new book page. We think it’s going to be one of, if not the best, best book page anywhere on the internet.
But it’s still missing one important part: Discussions.
When planning out what we work on, we always try to figure out what the next big project will be. After the current round of updates, our eyes are set on figuring out what book discussions look like on Hardcover.
This last week Molly Templeton from Tor wrote an excellent article that hits on this subject: What Do We Want From the Bookish Internet? This paragraph specifically resonated with me:
Goodreads is incredibly broken, and I don’t know that any site built on star reviews can ever truly be a place for community. Twitter is a hot mess. Bluesky is invite-only and taking its sweet time and not without major flaws. So many other would-be replacements have already crashed and burned. Storygraph seems cool but what I want is not a list function or a tracking function. What I want is an ongoing, massive, sprawling conversation.What Do We Want From the Bookish Internet?
The last line hits on what’s missing: “What I want is an ongoing, massive, sprawling conversation.” No book site has managed to accomplish that. We want to take that on.
We still have a lot to figure out. Ste and I discussed this article and ways what discussions could look like it in last weeks Hardcover Live. Some of the questions we’re asking ourselves include:
Are “posts” standalone (Twitter, Instagram, TikTok) or topic-based (Reddit, Forums)? Do readers favorite/upvote/like posts, or can they also downvote? How do we cater to the moments when you most want to discuss a book – either by posting or reading? How do we handle moderation and keep readers safe?
What we want to build for Hardcover in this space is still to be determined – and that’s where we need your help!
We have a number of prototypes and questions we want to ask readers who care about community and discussions. Are you up for a 1-hour chat? Sign up for some time to chat!
No preparation is needed on your side. Just show up with an open mind. I’ll ask you some questions, share some prototypes and we can talk through them together to see what you like and don’t like.
It’ll be a fun chat about books and discussions. If you enjoy discussions online – whether you’re posting or just reading – please sign up for an hour chat. If none of the times work for you, please email me (adam at hardcover.app ) and we can figure something out.
Something that’s always fascinated me about projects I follow, specifically bootstrapped ones, is how the business is doing. Are they making loads of money? Or are they going to go out of business tomorrow? For us, the answer to both is the same: no. 😅
Our revenue is entirely from members upgrading to Supporters. We don’t sell data or have ads. Hardcover is a community project and we want to create it for the community. Once we have more traffic we’ll add affiliate links to purchase books, but that wouldn’t move the needle on revenue much at our current traffic.
Supporters who sign up for a year and have a US address also receive a nifty sticker + bookmark pack as a thank you. If you’re a supporter watch your email for info! 📚
Prompts are polls that Supporters can create, and anyone with an account can vote on. Think of Reddits “Suggest Me a Book” subreddit. Each month we’re featuring one prompt of the month. The more answers the better! This month’s prompt comes from John Wilker:
According to Wikipedia, Space opera is a subgenre of science fiction that emphasizes space warfare, with use of melodramatic, risk-taking space adventures, relationships, and chivalric romance. (Sadly the “opera” side refers to a sprawling intergalactic story – not a musical).
Answer this prompt, see the top answers, or upvote existing books that stand out.
Check out the answers from last months prompt: How did you become a bookworm?
The top voted answer from last month? The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. Hardcover readers tend to favor science fiction and fantasy more than other genres right now. I’m curious to see how that’ll change over time. Will there be a battle between fantasy, sci-fi, young adult romance and nonfiction self help? Only time will tell.
Here’s a look at what was most read in the last month, and what readers are more looking forward to in August.
This is based on books the most readers marked as completed between June 1, 2023, and August 1 2023. We needed to use two months in order to get numbers up high enough to have more standouts.
I’ve read 4 out of 5 of these and rated each of them 5⭐. Hardcover readers have great taste! 😉
Legends & Latte’s looks like so much fun. There’s an 8-week wait for it at my local library. Until then I’ll let the description tide me over:
High Fantasy with a double-shot of self-reinvention Worn out after decades of packing steel and raising hell, Viv the orc barbarian cashes out of the warrior’s life with one final score. A forgotten legend, a fabled artifact, and an unreasonable amount of hope lead her to the streets of Thune, where she plans to open the first coffee shop the city has ever seen. However, her dreams of a fresh start pulling shots instead of swinging swords are hardly a sure bet. Old frenemies and Thune’s shady underbelly may just upset her plans. To finally build something that will last, Viv will need some new partners and a different kind of resolve. A hot cup of fantasy slice-of-life with a dollop of romantic froth.Legends & Lattes description
A woman orc barbarian opening a coffee shop in a fantasy world? I’m a sucker for comedy fantasy and sci-fi, and this looks like a fun time.
These are the books saved to the most peoples “want to read” lists that are set to be released in August 2023.
I’ve heard great things about The Inheritance Games series. If it’s been on your list for a while it could be the right time to start it.
Last month in our update we highlighted a community member, @heagma but didn’t correctly link to his profile! We’re fixing that now. If you’re into Hard SF, Historical Fiction, and Science you’ll find his book recommendations and reviews a ton of fun.
If you’d like to be featured in a future month’s Member Spotlight, please fill out this form. We’re excited to share your love of books and favorites with the world.
The Hardcover Community isn’t just on the website – we’re also on Discord! If you’re not an expert in Discord, don’t worry – neither are we.
Join the over 350 of us to chat about books, hear about product updates and be a part of the community.
Being a fledgling startup we can use all the help we can get! Whether that’s becoming a Supporter, sharing Hardcover with a friend, or just following along.
We appreciate you for reading and hope you have an amazing August. Talk to you soon. ☀️