Hardcover Report for May 2024

Adam FortunaAvatar for Adam Fortuna

By Adam Fortuna

9 min read

Hi book friends!

It’s official, Hardcover is 3 years old! On April 23, 2021, when Twitter was still a happy place, I posted a random thought:

I’m considering making a Goodreads competitor (or more aptly a Letterboxd for books) out of spite for Amazon.

A “Spite Site” if you will.

— Adam Fortuna (@adamfortuna) April 23, 2021

I was motivated by a combination of factors happening all at once:

Using Letterboxd to track movies I watched, and realizing how much better it was than Goodreads.

Consuming the Goodreads API to show what I was reading on my personal blog, only for Amazon to announce the API would be deactivated.

Attempting to divest myself from big tech in all areas (notably Facebook due Cambridge Analytica’s election interference and Amazon due to, well, that’s an entire post 😅).

Watching the Spite Store episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm where Larry David opens a coffee shop right next door to the shop he was banned from.

Within a week of that Tweet, I posted on Reddit looking for cofounders, had an initial video call with a bunch of strangers and we were off to the races!

Within two weeks we’d decided on a name, registered the domain and started interviewing users to figure out what we should build.

Side note: Major thanks to everyone who’s ever responded to survey, given feedback on Discord or joined a call to share your thoughts. You’re the reason why Hardcover has evolved to where we are to. Some members have been around since the beginning; like @Lieje who was one of the first people we interviewed before Hardcover even had a name!

Speaking of names, here are a few of the names we brainstormed. I shudder to think where we’d be if we’d chosen some of these. 😂

Just look at these amazing names we almost picked. 😂

The first year for a new startup is rough. It’s easy to dream and plan an ambitious project, but turning a vision into a product takes a lot of work and money.

So far we’ve spent 6,646 hours working on Hardcover (3.2 years of 40-hour weeks) and spent $38,066. Some days that seems like a lot, but others it seems like nothing for building a competitor to a multi-million dollar business with major market share.

Working on this project has been a dream come true. Each month as I talk to new readers and see the site improve based on those discussions I’m more excited to dream about where it will go next! 🚀

Usually I do some kind of personal update in this first part of the email. For April, my wife and I spent half the month on vacation in South Korea enjoying the cherry blossoms and eating everything we could. I’m working on a photo-heavy blog post for my personal blog about the trip that I’ll share when it’s done.

What’s New on Hardcover

Our focus this month has continued to be on list improvements and onboarding new members.

📚 LetterBooks Lists!

We’ve completely reimagined what a “list” of books on Hardcover can do – starting with your library and lists. The name LetterBooks is taken from Letterboxd lists, which were a major inspiration to us.

If you’re the kind of reader who likes to discover new books from lists this update is for you!

Letterbooks can help you find and refine what you want to read so you spend less time searching and more time reading. Here are a few examples:

Sort any library (yours or another readers) by exactly what you’re looking for. My favorite is sorting by Match Percentage to see what books Hardcover thinks you’ll love most. We also added a Shuffle sort, which Jeff has long wanted. 😂

Your library contains books in each status. We’ve also added an “All” page that shows all books.

We’ve redesigned Shelf View and Table View to be more usable. This meant restricting covers in this view to all be the same size – which results in a beautiful tiled look. Try this out on your own profile (I’ve sorted by Popularity).

Table View with ability to add custom columns

We’ve updated each book to show up with context awareness. For example, your “Read” books will show your rating and your “Currently Reading” books will have an easy way to update your progress.

You can update progress with the slider, or manually by clicking on the page number.

We’ve rolled out LetterBooks for your Library and Your Lists to start. We plan to add them everywhere

There are entirely too many features to fully dig into them in this post. I’ve put together a full list of what we’ve done so far in phase 1 of Letterbooks, and what phases 2 & 3 will look like.

Introducing Letterbooks: Advanced Lists for Power Readers →

🧭 New Navigation

Ste had a great idea for how navigation could work that’s easier to use, faster and, well, pretty cool!

We’ve moved everything into three categories – Discover, Browse, and You. There’s a nifty transition between them, and and a secret “Lab Experiments” section that we can use to experiment with new ideas before they become core features on the site.

❤️ List Bookmarks are Now Likes

We changed the terminology around “Bookmarked Lists” and switched them to “Likes”. You’ll be able to see all of your liked lists from your profile, so nothing has changed there.

We did this because we want people to be liberal with their support for others on the platform. The concept of liking something is more familiar from other social platforms too.

🌐 API Migration

Thanks to contributions from Luca, a new developer on the team, we were able to move our API from Hasura Cloud to Heroku.

I absolutely love Hasura. It’s the most developer friendly way to create an API that I’ve ever experienced. Unfortunately, their cloud hosting costs don’t quite make sense for our project.

Fortunately Hasura is open source, and we can deploy it on our own – which we’ve done. This means that rather than paying $99 + $2/GB for bandwidth, we’ll pay $100 for the hosting regardless of bandwidth. This should allow more people to use our API without us worrying about bandwidth costs.

🔴 Hardcover Live

Earlier this year we launched the new Hardcover Live, our weekly live show where we build Hardcover in public.

In April we recorded and released 2 more episodes, which can be watched on YouTube, or downloaded through your podcast player of choice.

We’re taking this week off from Live in order to roll out some of the features mentioned above (and write and send this post 😅).

What’s Next on Hardcover?

While there’s a bunch we want to do, we’re focusing on some core improvements right now.

📚 LetterBook Phase 2 & 3

The first phase of LetterBooks is what you see today and described above. It’s a huge improvement, but more than that it’s a complete rewrite of the code used for how we show a list of books.

Phase 2: Filtering (which will be a huge feature), custom header images, reasons for why a book was added and bulk edit mode.

Phase 3: Adding LetterBooks to all lists!

When I say “list” what I really mean is any collection of books. That could be showing books an author has written, books in a series, books in a goal, books in a prompt, books similar to another book, trending books – you get the idea. Anywhere there’s an array of books we’ll turn it into a LetterBooks list.

You can read more about future plans for LetterBooks in our blog post announcement.

📊 Dashboard

If you’ve tuned into our Live’s recently, you’ll know we’re working towards a new “home” page for readers to use. The dashboard will be customizable, where you can add widgets based on what you want to see when you login.

We ran a poll earlier this year to figure out what people wanted to be able to perform from here. The idea is to have a pulse on your reading, stats, friends, authors and everything in one place.

🆓 Open Sourcing Hardcover

We’ve set a goal for the team to open source the code for Hardcover this year. We think the dashboard will be a great place for contributions – where developers can create their own dashboard widgets and have them added to an official widget library.

There’s a bunch we want (and need) to do before getting there. Some things are obvious like removing commits with API keys (oops 😅). Other are more elaborate, like figuring out how to bootstrap data for people locally.

Why open source? There are a bunch of reasons, but I’ll name my top two.

First, it shows that we’re not using underhanded techniques or secretly or selling data. It allows our code to be audited and reviewed – which also helps us find bugs and flaws.

But the reason I’m most excited about is allowing more people to contribute. I often receive emails from developers wanting to help out on Hardcover. It’s tough to vet devs and figure out who’s going to follow through, who has the time, skillset, and availability to spend the effort needed to get up to speed and make a difference. Open sourcing will allow anyone to try to make a difference.

Behind the Scenes at Hardcover

We’ve welcomed a bunch more readers this month, bringing our total up to 7,966 readers! Most people that join end up completing onboarding and giving us a try, however about half disappear after the first month.

We’re just starting to research why that is. What is it that brought these readers in? Why didn’t they stick around?

We’ll be reaching out to some of them in the coming weeks to chat and better understand these questions and more. If you’re reading this and you joined Hardcover but haven’t stuck around (but somehow made it this far 😂), please reply to this email and let me know! Why’d you initially join? Why didn’t you end up using Hardcover?

Our supporters ticked up another 6 from 93 to 99 last month. Who’s going to be #100?!

Featured Prompt for May 2024

We often read for characters, stories and conflict, but another factor can make or break a good world – the sense of place.

That’s the focus of this months Featured Prompt from @DrTalos.

What’s your favorite scifi or fantasy with a strong sense of place?

I’m interested in new genre books where the setting is almost like a character. I’m especially interested in books that also have a strong plot. For me, the prime example is “Finch” by Jeff vandermeer. Maybe “City of Miracles” by Robert Jackson Bennett. What are books like this for you?

April’s Prompt

Last months featured prompt was What’s your favorite cozy fantasy? Legends & Lattes leads the pack, with many more I’m excited to read on the list.

Most Read Books for April 2024

Our top 5 for this month are exactly the same as last month down to the order. 😅 This leads me to think that Hardcover readers enjoy being a part of what’s collectively popular. I know I do. I’ve been working through the Trending list, which now accounts for 9 out of 10 of my Libby reservations. 😂

  1. Iron Widow By Xiran Jay Zhao
  2. Fourth Wing By Rebecca Yarros
  3. Bookshops & Bonedust By Travis Baldree
  4. Iron Flame By Rebecca Yarros
  5. Dune By Frank Herbert

Most Saved Books To Be Released in May 2024

  1. The Last Murder at the End of the World by Stuart Turton (40 saves)
  2. The Ministry of Time by Kaliane Bradley (17 saves)
  3. The Honey Witch by Sydney J. Shields (15 saves)
  4. The Silverblood Promise by James Logan (11 saves)
  5. When Among Crows by Veronica Roth (10 saves)
  6. A Crane Among Wolves by June Hur (10 saves)

Stuart Turton is well known for The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, a science fiction thriller with too many twists to count. The Last Murder looks to take up that mantle.

The next book by Veronica Roth, famous for the Divergent series is surely one to watch.

Join us on Discord

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.

Join the Hardcover Discord

Want to Support Hardcover?

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 month. Talk to you soon. ♥️

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