Hardcover Report for September 2023

Adam FortunaAvatar for Adam Fortuna

By Adam Fortuna

9 min read

Hi book friends! This September has been one of the most exciting months for us since starting Hardcover. After four very long months working on a refresh, we released a major update!

This update touches every single page of the website and the app – making it more usable, quicker, and just more fun to browse.

Being more fun is difficult to quantify. When Ste and I were browsing the site on staging we both had moments where we realized we were just enjoying browsing around – hoping between books, prompts and lists and finding new books.

It’s hard to replicate the enjoyment of browsing a bookstore or a library, but that’s one of our goals. We’re trying to reproduce the fun of going from shelf to shelf looking for new books, reading staff picks, and recognizing familiar titles. This release is our first real attempt at that.

I’ll recap some of the highlights of this release here, but you can see a full breakdown in our recent blog post.

As a reminder, we do these updates every month โ€“ starting with June, July and August 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 of books with the world.

What’s New On Hardcover?

So much. Here’s a quick rundown of new features with a few images.

๐Ÿ” New Search!

This new search is suuuuper speedy. It searches books by title, author names, series names, alternative titles (like “Philosopher’s Stone” vs. “Sorcerer’s Stone”), and even the most common ISBNs for each book.

๐Ÿ“š New Book Page

In our Discord we built much of this page in public – sharing prototypes and iterating based on what people thought. The end result is an absolutely beautiful, useful page that captures information about the book and community sentiment in a way I’ve never seen on any other book site or app.

๐Ÿ“ˆ Trending Books

One of my favorite additions is the new Trending Books page. It highlights which books the community has read the most over the last 3 months, 12 months, or all time. My TBR list has already exploded since using this. ๐Ÿ˜…

๐Ÿง™โ€โ™€๏ธ Readers and Supporters Page

Looking for book friends? You can use the new Readers & Supporters Page to find readers. Try sorting by “similarity %” to find readers with tastes more similar to you. You can become a supporter to be featured on the supporters page.

That’s Just the Start!

There were too many updates to highlight everything. A few others include:

  • Improved book button and book drawer for setting dates read, adding books to lists, changing your status and more.
  • Removed the Book Review modal and moved it to a new page.
  • Ability to set an edition for each read-through.
  • Reimagined Prompts making it easier to upvote and add books.
  • Ability to pin prompts and lists to your profile
  • Public GraphQL API
  • JSON Data export
  • A new page with all of your book reviews within your profile
  • Beautiful social images for books, reviews, and prompts.
  • Updated profile pages with your most common genre as a header image.
  • Ability to generate a referral link for any page (you’ll earn a month as a supporter if you refer two friends).

There are other updates I’m skipping over, but those are the highlights. For the last 4 months, we’ve been working on this just about every day. We’re attempting to build the book website that we’d want to exist in the world – which is absolutely a blast to work on.

What’s Coming Soon?

Any release of this size has some cleanup that comes first. While we’re researching the next big project (Discussions), we have a loooong backlog of bugs to fix with this new release. We’re making progress though! The most annoying bugs are being fixed first. We’re currently working on a weird iOS bug that occasionally requires a restart.

Aside from that we also want to spend some time getting our costs under control. We’ve managed to spend quite a bit more money this last month than usual, which isn’t sustainable (unless I get a job to support Hardcover). Instead, we’re going to spend some time optimizing the services we use and get some of them under control. Not the most exciting thing to work on, but it’s by being a lean, fast-moving team that we’ll be able to survive long enough to grow into what we know we could become with your help.

Discussions ๐Ÿ”œ

Last month we mentioned we were starting research on Discussions. After talking with a few readers we’ve started zoning in on how this will work.

Here’s the pitch based on what we’re planning right now:

We’re creating discussion boards for every book, author, series, and character. Users can discuss each with text, quotes, links, and images. Each post has a title, like Reddit. Posts and comments can be liked, with popular ones rising to the top.

Discussions and comments can be linked to specific book sections (chapter, page #, etc). If you’re logged-in and haven’t read that far, we’ll blur spoilers.

You can reference other books, authors, series, characters, and readers. Each page has discussions for the topic and mentions from other discussions. (ex: a character page with all mentions of that character from other discussions).

Discussions can optionally be tagged. We don’t yet know what tags will emerge, but we can imagine ones like #question, #news, #review, #video, #audio or even book-specific tags like locations, or plot points. Discussions can be filtered by tag.

We’re still figuring out how discussions fit in the app’s feed, moderation, author involvement, private messaging, and highlighting discussions across the app.

Our vision for Discussions on Hardcover

Whew, that’s a lot. We’re trying to make discussions more into a book club than another social media that you feel you need to continuously post on. If you’re reading a book and want to participate in a community around it, we want to have one that’s ready for you to join on your schedule.

This is leaning more towards Reddit (Topic-focused) than Twitter/Facebook/Instagram (Individual-focused).

That’s the plan right now at least. We still have a lot to figure out, but having a vision helps โ€“ both for us to focus and to discuss with you’ll.

With that in mind, I’d love to hear your feedback on this. Do you like this direction? Would you prefer something different?

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 โ€“ whether you’re posting or just reading โ€“ 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.

Behind the Scenes at Hardcover

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. ๐Ÿ˜…

  • August Revenue: $212! (our highest month yet!)
  • August Expenses: -$970.43
  • August Profit: -$782.42

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.

Featured Prompt for September 2023

Prompts are polls that Supporters can create, and anyone with an account can vote on. Think of Reddit’s “Suggest Me a Book” subreddit. Each month we’re featuring one prompt of the month. The more answers the better! This month’s prompt is one of my favorite

What are your favorite adventure biographies?

Even before fantasy and science fiction were genres we had adventure biographies. Travelers would journey into the unknown and share their heroic tale with the world (or someone else would in some cases). Whether you’ve experienced a call to adventure or prefer to read tales from others, what adventure biographies have stuck with you?

Answer this prompt, see the top answers, or upvote existing books that stand out.

Last Months Prompt

Check out the answers from last month’s prompt: Favorite Space Opera Books. The top 5 most voted books are all bangers.

This a genre I absolutely love, and would highly recommend each of these. Red Rising reminds me of The Hunger Games meets Enders Game and I couldn’t put it down.

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 September.

Most Read Books for August 2023

This is based on books the most readers marked as completed between June 1, 2023, and September 1, 2023. You can now view these anytime on the new Trending Books page. Using three months gives more separation between these.

  1. Legends & Lattes (Legends & Lattes #1) by Travis Baldree
  2. Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
  3. A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers (#1 in Monk & Robot)
  4. The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu (#1 in Remembrance of Earth’s Past)
  5. Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

This is the second month Legends & Latte’s has been in the top spot. In it, Viv, an orc barbarian, cashes out after a life as a warrior and decides to open a coffee shop. It’s filled with heartwarming characters, a desire to change one’s place in life, and of course cinnamon buns. It’s such a fun lighthearted read – I’d absolutely recommend it.

I haven’t read anything by Becky Chambers, but The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is high on my list to read. I learned about it while building the Science Fiction & Fantasy flow chart and it’s been on my list ever since.

Most Saved Books To Be Released in September 2023

These are the books saved to the most people’s “want to read” lists that are set to be released in September 2023.

  1. A Study in Drowning by Ava Reid (also wrote: The Wolf and the Woodsman)
  2. A Curse for True Love by Stephanie Garber (Once Upon a Broken Heart, #3)
  3. The Last Devil to Die (Thursday Murder Club, #4)
  4. Starter Villain by John Scalzi (Old Mans War, Redshirts)
  5. Fly with Me by Andie Burke

Want to Join the Hardcover Team?

As we’ve started to grow more and more we’re realizing one big missing piece: a head librarian!

Our current team includes me (developer + product), Ste (designer + product), and Daniel (marketing + community). We have a lot of work to do on the book data side. Much of that we hope will be done programmatically, but nothing can substitute for an organized reader who can’t wait to share their love of books with the world.

We’re hoping to bring a new team member part-time to the team. Although we’re not making money (or receiving funding), this would be an equity position, earning equity at the same pace as all other team members using the slicing pie method. (tl;dr: Instead of saying “you get x% of the company”, everyone earns equity for every minute they work).

Here’s a little bit more of what we’re looking for:

  • An avid reader who wants to be on top of what’s popular, exciting, and interesting in the book community.
  • Organized with a high attention to detail. You’ll be setting standards for what shows up on Hardcover for books, authors, series, and more.
  • Able to join the team every other week for live video calls where we decide what to focus on as a group.
  • Able to use Discord to keep in touch.
  • Can write useful documentation for other librarians and readers.
  • Eventually can lead librarian calls with volunteer librarians to align them with your vision of book data on Hardcover.
  • Up for joining for the long term! We want someone who can grow with us and (eventually) join as a paid team member (if we can get there together as a group ๐Ÿคž).

We see this as a core team member that we’re finally ready for. If this sounds exciting to you, please reach out to adam at hardcover.app with a link to your Hardcover profile, some professional information (LinkedIn or resume), and a bit about why you’d like to join the team.

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 400 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 September. Talk to you soon. โ˜€๏ธ

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