By Adam Fortuna
Happy New Year! 🍾 🥳
New Years is one of my favorite holidays. One of my favorite traditions is reflecting on the outgoing year. I do this by writing a personal blog post about my last year.
This year, we carried that tradition over to Hardcover and created The Hardcover 2023 Year in Books. It’s a snapshot of everything that was popular on Hardcover for 2023 split up across genres, timeframes, themes and more.
The end of the year is also a wonderful time to wipe away everything that we said we were going to do but didn’t and start fresh. On a recent episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, he mentioned how they do a similar thing each year – discarding any stories ideas that were untold.
It’s also a great time to set a new reading goal for 2024! I’ve set myself a somewhat ambitious goal of reading 100 books this year. I think if I can keep myself off social media (specifically Reddit and TikTok) that’ll be easy. 😂
There’s something cathartic about starting the year clean – although I have never wiped my Want to Read list. 😅
When looking back at the last year here on Hardcover, I’m amazed at what we’ve been able to accomplish:
📱 Launched an iOS app and Android App
📚 Created the Librarian Program
🔘 New Book Button for easy library access
🔍 Revamped Book Page (and the rest of the app) with a focus on community
💻 Created Ask Jules, our AI Librarian
🚀 Launched on ProductHunt
📆 Released The Hardcover 2023 Year in Books!
Add to that a bunch of blog posts, Hardcover Live’s, Discord conversations, social media posts and more.
We ended 2021 with 161 members. We climbed to 1,306 members by the end of 2022. This year we hit 5,272 members! We also made $280 in revenue in 2022, which climbed to $2,570 this past year (we share our income and expenses monthly). We’re not yet profitable, but December 2023 was our lowest deficit (costs – revenue) that we’ve experienced since launching – an incredible sign.
The biggest turn this year is harder to put into words. It’s that moment when I thought this is going to work. I believe we’re going to turn this little project into something that’ll be around for years to come.
That was a realization both Ste and I had while working on the redesign earlier this year. While using the site, we realized we were having fun exploring, finding new books and seeing connections that no other site makes.
There’s something alive in looking at a book and seeing what your friends and similar readers think of it, what prompts people feel it answers, what lists it belongs on and what match percentage we calculate for it. We have many more ideas in the works to make books feel alive.
December was such a fun month! I can assure you I’ve never said that before at a corporate job. 😂 In those settings with team members traveling, people preparing for the new year and shopping for the holidays, it was amazing to get anything done.
We’re going a different route – focusing on creating the type of project/life balance that motivates us. Part of that is setting reasonable expectations of ourselves and not overpromising.
In December we had one major focus: the Year in Books.
On Christmas we released The Hardcover 2023 Year in Books! As I mentioned above, it’s a celebration of the most read books of the year by Hardcover members across genres, trends, months and more.
I’m so excited with how this came out. Images add to the fun of the sections, and each section includes books I completely missed this year. Although my Want To Read list has exploded since putting this together. 😅
If you’re curious to see more about how we created the Year In Books, you can check out the blog post about the launch.
Starting at the beginning of 2023, Ste and I started jumping on a weekly call, recording it and building Hardcover together. It was one hour a week where where we’d work together – then go our separate ways and work asynchronously the rest of the time.
We put a few of them up on YouTube, but it wasn’t the main way we communicated with you’ll. For 2024 we’re planning to use this as the main way we communicate with the Hardcover Community – outside of this monthly email and Discord of course.
To start, we put together the new Hardcover Live page which lists out all past episodes with information about future ones.
You can watch Hardcover Live every Wednesday at 12 PM PST, 3 PM EST, 8 PM GMT. We broadcast to Twitch and YouTube as well if you’d prefer to watch on there. We check the chat in the Riverside stream, which broadcasts to the rest.
Looking back at the last year, many of the subjects of these discussions turned into features you can use today. From the book button, to Ask Jules, the new Search, and most recently the Year in Books, we’ve had fun building in public. These talks focus on the ideation and creation part – then after the calls we have to go off and actually do the rest of the work. 😂
The next Hardcover Live is this Wednesday, January 3 at 12pm PST. Tune in if you’d like to see how our holidays were and watch as we figure out the next steps and designs.
If you’re an author, a book influencer or are creating something cool in the book space and would be interested in being a guest, please reach out to me (adam at hardcover.app).
Now that the Year in Books is out, we’re ready to tackle some new projects! Before we share what those are, I want to share how we’re organizing them (organized people will love this 😂).
We’ve created a 2024 Roadmap Document with what we’re planning on working on in the next few months.
I’ll update this throughout the year with the next 3 major things we’re working on. This is primarily for major features, not updates to specific pages. Those kinds of changes can be worked into the schedule as needed.
I’ve enabled comments on the 2024 Roadmap. If there’s anything you’d like to add, feel free to chime in! If you’d like to request a new feature, you can still request over on the Request section. This week I’ll be updating the Roadmap on there to match the Roadmap doc as well.
The next three things we’re working on include:
Currently it’s impossible to add new books that we can’t fetch by ISBN/Goodreads Id. We also can’t add new editions to an existing book. Readers should be able to create new books as well.
As part of this we want to allow readers and librarians to add new books and editions to Hardcover. Newly added books and editions will have a “User Added” tag to indicate they haven’t been approved by a librarian and will not be shown in Search until they are approved.
We reuse “airlists” across the site to showcase a list of books. Each list also has it’s own sorting, filtering and columns available. The codebase makes it very difficult to reuse this code in different contexts. It’s impossible to do things like “sort by match percentage”. We’re also focusing on search engine optimization (SEO). Currently Airlists are rendered on the client side. By rendering it on the server side we could increase SEO.
To solve this, we want to move the selection of what books should be shown to the Rails side and server-side render the front-end. Update the interface to use the same filtering and sorting options across all lists of books (Authors books, books by status, lists, goals, etc). Side note: the term letterlists is because these are inspired by Letterboxd lists.
The mobile app works, but it doesn’t feel complete. We want people to enjoy using the app for 1 minute or for hours.
We want to make a series of improvements that make the app feel more native including notifications, gestures, pull to refresh, haptics, callouts to open the website in the app with deep linking.
We’ll also continue fixing bugs and working on other features that people upvote on our requests board. In January we’re planning to enable updating progress by page number – the highest voted request! 🥳
December was our highest revenue month yet! Thank you so much to everyone who upgraded to a support this holiday season. Here’s how the numbers broke down this month.
Our biggest expenses are still Heroku ($422, Rails, Redis, Database) and Hasura ($145, API). I believe we could move our Hasura hosting to be compute based rather than bandwidth based and that’d reduce our costs another $100. That’s on the horizon, and might happen sooner if our API costs grow.
I’ve updated our Income & Expenses page up to the end of 2023 if you’re curious to know more about our financials. We have another $7k in the bank right now, which at our current pace might be enough to last until we’re revenue positive without needing anymore funding help form the Hardcover team 🤞.
This months prompt would have been most useful a month ago, but I wanted to share it now while answers are still fresh in readers minds.
I’m at 42/52 and I’m trying to really make a push to finish the year! I have a few longer books (18–25 hours audiobook) lined up, so I want some shorter and easier ones to fill out the list. I tend to sci fi and fantasy but anything will do. Wintry/cozy also could be nice! Thanks
Many of us can relate! 😂 Are there any books you recommend to readers who want a quick but exciting read? Maybe if we start now we’ll be ahead of our goal for the year!
Last months features prompt was “What are the best non fiction audiobooks?“
So far the top voted book is I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy. It was also the #2 most read book on Hardcover in 2023. She reads the audiobook, and I’d highly recommend it.
Here’s a look at what was most read in the last month, and what readers are more looking forward to in December.
Fourth Wing and it’s sequel, released in November 2023, have captured the top spot this month. It was also the most read book overall on Hardcover last year!
System Collapse, the newest addition to the Murderbot Diaries, just came out in November as well. Three other books in the series were also in the top 15. That’s part of why Martha Wells was the #6 most popular author on Hardcover this year.
After Sarah J. Maas’s success with A Court of Thorns and Roses, it’s easy to see why readers can’t wait for the next book in the Crescent City series. I reading ACOTAR last year after some nudging, and absolutely loved it. This series is for sure on my list, and with this release it’s the perfect time to start.
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We appreciate you for reading and hope you have an amazing November. Talk to you soon. 🏔️