By Adam Fortuna
Hi book friends!
November has come to a close and we’re entering the last month of 2023. I feel like this year has flown by. Some years feel like they cram in a decade of life into 365 days, but this year has felt more like a recovery year (after a very active 2022!).
We’ve been busy working on a few improvements and some new features we’ll get. In October we planned out the next few months of work, which we ambitiously called “Q4 Objectives”. Unlike a real job, that’s the start date of the those tasks, not the end date. 😂 If you’re curious about the broad strokes of what we’re working on, check it out.
One of my favorite moments of November was attending Dragonsteel 2023, an entire convention focused on Brandon Sanderson’s world of books and a celebration of fantasy. If you’re a Sanderson fan, I’d highly encourage you to attend. Attendees ranged from 10-year old girls that love Skyward to old regal wizards in full cosplay. It was a fun time. Next year I plan add a temporary channel in our Discord (you can join now and be ready!).
On the personal side this month has been a quiet one. We recently got our record player fixed – it’s still working after 40+ years! We’re beginning to find fun records and picking up a few of our all-time favorites. So far the Last Night in Soho soundtrack and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots by The Flaming Lips have been our favorites.
After a bug-bash filled October, we’ve shifted to three big things that are still in progress
I’m soooo excited about this one. At the end of 2022 we launched individual stats pages (example) which are your year in books. This was our answer to a “Spotify Wrapped” kind of personalized experience.
One other thing we wanted to do but didn’t have time for was an overall year in books – something that captured what was popular on Hardcover throughout the year in order to celebrate those books and find gems we missed.
I’ve been a huge fan of Letterboxd Year in Movies and look forward to it every year. Our goal is to do something similar for books – both using data from the community as well as finding themes.
It’s going to be the most visual presentation we’ve tried so far – using images and colors alongside covers to showcase these books.
There are going to be a lot of sections – most read books, books by genre, most read books by BIPOC authors, popular authors, lists, prompts, trends, anticipated books of 2024 and more.
We’re aiming to release this on Christmas. 🎁
Here’s a dark secret of Hardcover: the code for the way lists work today is awful. 😅 We’re dynamically generating GraphQL requests by combining all the settings readers set for filters, sorting and what columns they want to see.
On top of that, the interface for changing sorting and filtering isn’t user-friendly. It’s also missing some of the most useful options – like sorting by match percentage or filtering by genre.
This update, which I’m hoping to deploy before the Year in Books, will improve the user experience on desktop and mobile, speed up the interface a bunch by rendering everything on the server and add a bunch more sorting and filtering options.
And I’m planning to add bulk editing here too – one of the top feature requests. We’re planning to still have Card view and Cover view, but I’m leaning towards making table view and bulk editing Supporter-only features. Those are power-user features but ones that take a while to code. If you have strong opinions on that decision, please drop me an email.
If you’ve been following along with these emails, you’ll know we’ve been talking about discussions for a while. Thank you to everyone who’s filled out the survey or participated in an interview!
We’ve reached a point where we’re happy with the direction, but also know that it’ll expand out into many other places across the site.
There are still many decisions and designs still to figure out, but there are three things we have figured out:
#1 – We’re moving forward with discussions tied to a book (or an author, character, series, genre + more), with an easy way to mention other parts and have those discussions show up there. If you post about Circe and mention The Odyssey, your Circe post will show up in The Odyssey as well (with a slightly different style). Think
We may eventually enable people to create a group/subreddit that’s public or invite only that has discussions too, but that won’t be in our V1. We’re focusing on public discussions to start.
#2 – Progress updates with text + progress by page number or audio position. I’m really excited about this one. It’ll allow you to create a kind of reading journal and each journal entry can be commented on.
#3 – Feed updates! The easy one here is comments in the feed. The other is completely revamping the feed with discussions, the ability to filter by activity type and making the “for you” feed smarter.
My plan right now is to start working on Discussion updates after the Year in Books and List updates.
We had a lower revenue month, but that was expected. After our launch on September 30th, I assumed our revenue would spike some with people buying 1-year subscriptions, then go down to a new baseline. That’s exactly what happened and our income is higher than it was before launch.
Most of our expenses aren’t based on usage but content. Our 220 GB database, our 1 million records in Algolia. Whenever we’re able to move to usage based billing – like with our switch from Imgix to Imaginary – we save tons of money. On the plus side, our expenses won’t increase much even with 10x or 100x our traffic.
We will need to do some database maintenance in December. We have 256 GB of space and we’re almost filling it. We could increase this for another $200/month but I’d like to do a round of optimizations first.
In October we made creating Prompts free for all members, and a bunch of fun ones were created! We’re working on ways to showcase these Prompts more broadly on the site, but for now the best way to see new them is on the Recent Prompts page.
This is a category that I personally love, so I’m excited to see what books come to mind. After not reading much during college, it was this genre + medium that got me back into reading again for fun.
Side note: Once you answer a prompt, we’ll generate a shareable page with just your answers. As an example, here are my answers to this prompt.
Head over to this months prompt to upvote your favorites, find time nonfiction audiobooks you might have missed and add your own favorites.
Last months features prompt was “What is the most unique or thought-provoking time travel book you’ve ever read?“.
So far 9 readers have voted and the top result? 11/22/63! There are 6 books tied for the second spot right now. Check out last months prompt to see them or upvote your favorite time travel books.
Here’s a look at what was most read in the last month, and what readers are more looking forward to in December.
The second book in The Empyrean series, Iron Flame, came out with a bang this month, leading many readers to quickly move it to the top of their list. The first book in the series, Fourth Wing, came out earlier this year and became a popular one on TikTok. I described it to my wife as “Harry Potter meets The Hunger Games with dragons and a dash of ACOTAR“. Amazon also picked up the rights to it, and is planning to turn it into a TV series.
The Three-Body Problem series is a mind-bending science fiction epic that was written in Chinese and translated to English. Netflix is working on a series set for release in March 21, 2024. I’ve been waiting for this one for YEARS and can’t wait to see it. (I just hope it doesn’t get canceled before we get to book 3 😭).
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 500 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 November. Talk to you soon. 🏔️