Hardcover Report for November 2023

Adam FortunaAvatar for Adam Fortuna

By Adam Fortuna

9 min read
November Report

Hi book friends!

October has been such a fun month. Following our launch on September 30th, our focus this month has been on stability, fixing bugs and preparing for what comes next.

In jobs I’ve had at larger companies, we often had to strongly state our case when we wanted to work on maintenance. It’s time we’re not building out new features, which sometimes doesn’t go over well when months go by without shiny new features to sell. This month felt a little like that.

There are no flashy new announcements or releases this month: just continuing to move in the right direction.

Aside from that I’ve been playing a lot of Baulders Gate 3 while my wife plays Disney Dreamlight Valley. ๐Ÿ˜‚ We’ve also been playing Hollow Knight and Gargoyles – handing the controller back forth after each death. It reminds me of playing the first Mario game as a kid. ๐ŸŽฎ

We saw Taylor Swift’s new concert (in theaters of course) and dressed up at Beetlejuice and Lydia for Halloween.

Now I’m recovering from a COVID-19 booster vaccine which drained my energy more than I expected. Definitely still get it, but plan accordingly.

What’s New On Hardcover?

We closed 32 issues in GitHub this month, plus more fixes that didn’t make it there. Often times people will report things on Discord that we’ll roll out ASAP. It’s community driven development. ๐Ÿ’ช๐Ÿ 

Here are a few noteworthy things we did this month.

๐Ÿš€ Faster Loading!

In August we switched from loading most of the experience in the browser to loading it on the server. This causes the first page load to be faster โ€“ which is most noticeable on mobile.

I’m working on a technical blog post that goes over the many steps we took for this: server side generation, loading server-side data into Redux, priming our Apollo Cache, optimizing our code splitting, and a bunch more. If you’re into web performance, keep an eye out for that post.

๐Ÿ“ฑ Android and iOS App Updates in November

We updated our iOS and Android apps with some minor fixes (less crashing, copy link issues, and a few more). Due to the way the app is developed, anything that people can do on the website they can do on the app.

We redesigned the top navigation bar in the app to be less cluttered, moving everything into the sidebar that opens when you press your avatar.

You’ll also notice Ste’s Halloween logo! I can’t wait for more festive logos for noteworthy days. What should we do next?

โš ๏ธ New Error Pages

It turns out that our error pages… had errors. ๐Ÿ˜… This often made the site unusable until you changed the URL or restarted the app. We’ve fixed this and improved our messaging when things do go wrong:

400 Server Error

404 Not Found

401 Unauthorized

We hope you never see these, but if you do it’ll be less jarring. ๐Ÿ˜‚

What’s Coming Soon?

We’re down to only 24 known bugs in our backlog! Getting this to zero is unrealistic, but that’s OK. The hope is to balance this with new features.

Back when I was working at a job as a Product Manager, October first would mean coming up with our “Quarterly Goals” for the last 3 months of the year. I’m usually a decent planner, but between Thanksgiving, Christmas and a lot of traveling for holidays I’d overestimate what was possible during this timeframe.

For Hardcover we’re not setting quarterly goals, we’re setting a direction. We’ll continue working in that direction until things change – whether that takes 3 months or 6 months! We came up with a few topics that we want to focus on right now (in order).

#1. Increase the stability of the app

We want people to have a consistent and lovely experience without errors getting in the way. This task is all about making things more dependable. Many of the above things we’ve done (mobile fixes, error pages, server side rendering) go back to this. We have a metric for “% of sessions that didn’t encounter a JavaScript error” which started the month at 54% ๐Ÿ˜… We’re trying to get this to 90%.

#2. Create an organized Librarian Program

There are two ways to edit book data on Hardcover. One way is to upgrade to a Supporter. The other way is to join the Librarian Program! Since opening the doors in May, we’ve welcomed over 20 librarians, and a lead Librarian.

But there’s still a lot we need to do. This focus is all about understanding and planning out what’s next: tools to manage the program, documentation, processes and more.

#3. Maximize Search Engine Potential

We have a LOT of pages, but so far we haven’t managed to attract much search engine traffic. One of the reasons for this was because our pages were loading soooo slowly. We’re working on improving our SEO in a few ways โ€“ most importantly by improving speed and improving content.

#4. Create the Hardcover Year in Books

I’m soooo excited about this one! Every year Letterboxd does a year in movies (ex: 2022). We’re working on something similar we’re calling the Year in Books! We’re still sketching this out right now, but I can’t wait to see it. It’ll be a time capsule of this year that we hope people will look back on to find great reads from the year that they might have missed. We’re aiming to launch this Christmas week.

#5. Create MVP of Discussions

If you’ve been following us the last few months, you’ve heard us mention discussions more than once. We’re getting close to starting on this, and hope to have an MVP out soon. Here’s a sneak peak from our current prototype:

This prototype is getting closer, but before we start coding it, we need your help! We’ve put together this feedback form which takes 10-15 minutes to complete and gives you a sneak peek at what we’re working on.

Give feedback on our Discussions Prototype

This discussions system is very ambitious. We’d love to hear what you think of it.

Behind the Scenes at Hardcover

After a busy August and September, October has felt relaxing in comparison ๐Ÿ˜…. There’s something calming about fixing bugs and making incremental changes.

Revenue-wise, we had our highest month yet following our launch! I’m excited that these numbers are getting closer to each other.

  • October Revenue: $414
  • October Expenses: -$1,264.05
  • October Profit: -$850

We also hit a new milestone: 4,000 members! We started 2023 with 1,300 members, and have more than doubled that in 10 months. If that trend continues we’re looking good to reach financial stability in the coming year. ๐Ÿคž

From an expenses standpoint, just about everything is going to server costs. $450 to Heroku (database, app server), $350 to Algolia (search) and $120 to Hasura (api) are our largest expenses.

The optimizer in me knows we could move all of this to Google Cloud and we’d pay a little less. But that would take up time to maintain it. Having these services “just work” without me constantly needing to maintain them is worth every penny.

Featured Prompt for October 2023

Last months we made 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.

We’re featuring two prompts this month!

November is Native American Heritage Month. In that spirit I’m going to read at leats one book by an indigenous author this month, and I’d challenge you to as well. If you’re looking for ideas, or have books you’d like to share your favorites, check out the Prompt What are your favorite books by Indigenous Authors? by @eske.addams.

The other featured prompt this month by @BookExplorer: What is the most unique or thought-provoking time travel book you’ve ever read?

Time travel is my all-time favorite genre. I love how it can fit nicely into so many other genres โ€“ science fiction, fantasy and romance โ€“ to name a few.

My wife and I had a whole discussion about what qualifies as a time travel book. If someone relives their own life is that time travel? If someone uses time dilation to travel a near light speed and speed up time, is that time travel? I’m curious to see what books other readers add.

Head over to this months prompt to upvote your favorites, find time travel books you might have missed and add your own favorites.

Last Months Prompt: What books had the best villain of all time?

Check out last months spooky prompt, if you’re still on the hunt for a good villain story. Stephen King managed to claim the top two spots with “It” and “The Stand”, followed by Agatha Christies “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd”.

What’s Popular on Hardcover?

Here’s a look at what was most read in the last month, and what readers are more looking forward to in November.

Most Read Books for October 2023

Project Hail Mary stayed at the #1 spot for another month! It’s one that I’ve seen constantly recommended on Reddit as well – and with good reason. It’s such a fun one that I want to re-read it. ๐Ÿ˜‚

  1. Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
  2. Babel, or The Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution by R.F. Kuang
  3. Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros
  4. Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
  5. Yellowface by R.F. Kuang

R.F Kuang, author of the amazing Poppy War fantasy series, claimed TWO spots in the top 5 โ€“ something no other author has done. I’ve loved how Babel & The Poppy War bring in cultural influences while challenging imperialism in a character-focused way. Yellowface is high up on my own list.

Fourth Wing came out earlier this year and quickly 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.

Most Saved Books To Be Released in November 2023

Here are the books that the most people have marked as Want to Read that are set for release this month.

  1. System Collapse (#7 of 7 in The Murderbot Diaries) by Martha Wells
  2. Iron Flame (#2 of 2 in The Empyrean) by Rebecca Yarros
  3. Check & Mate by Ali Hazelwood
  4. The Olympian Affair (#2 of 2 in The Cinder Spires) by Jim Butcher
  5. Murtagh (#5 of 5 in The Inheritance Cycle) by Christopher Paolini

I have a feeling many people were reading Fourth Wing to prepare for Iron Flame which comes out on November 7th.

I can’t wait for next book The Murderbot Diaries. That series, about TV-obsessed killing machine trying to fit in with a crew in this futuristic science fiction managed to walk that line between cheeky humor and barely staying alive while floating through space.

Murtagh is a long-awaited 5th book in The Inheritance Cycle series, which you might recognize from it’s most popular entry: Eragon. The 4th book in the series came out in 2011, leaving a 12-year wait for this one. The reverence people speak about this series along makes me want to read it.

Spotlight of the Month: Shepard

I’m switching it up a little this month and sharing a link to another book site run by my friend Ben. Just today he launched a new part of his site, Shepard, where he asked a bunch of authors and people in the book space to list out their favorite three books they read in 2023.

I was fortunate to contribute with my own favorite reads! I had a lot of fun looking through my Read Airlist, filtering by rating and trying to decide what my favorite three of the year were. I landed on these three, that you can check out: Adam Fortuna’s 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Side note: Thanks to @farhan for recommending The Will of the Many!

You can also browse Shepards Best Books of 2023 list to see which books appeared on the most readers lists.

Demon Copperhead shows up as the most mentioned book. It’s also #43 on Hardcover’s Favorite Books of All Time right now.

Join us on Discord

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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 November. Talk to you soon. ๐Ÿ”๏ธ

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