“Anyone who says they know what readers want in the digital age is full of shit,” says Evan Ratliff, the former Wired scribe who has gone full-time start-up. “It’s still way to early in the new form for anyone to succeed without a lot of experimentation.” Tomorrow night Mr. Ratliff will join three other local minds to discuss the future of digital publishing at the second Code Meet Print event at General Assembly.
Ratliff’s venture is The Atavist, which began as a boutique publishing house for original non-fiction on mobile devices, and has since branched out to offer its custom CMS to big publishers in fields like education looking to tap the burgeoning market for smartphones and tablets. “I don’t literally rip out the front of magazines, but I have always just read the features,” says Mr. Ratliff. The Atavist’s original intent was to create a market for pieces too long to fit in a magazine but not long enough to merit their own book.
“Then, once word started to get out, we kind of got buried under an avalanche of requests from people who wanted to try out our CMS,” he said. The system designed by The Atavist allows publishers to write once and publish across Nook, Kindle and Apple’s iOS, the latter coming in an app form with rich media like video and audio interviews attached.
So far the company, which was co-founded by Nicholas Thompson of The New Yorker, has been running on its own funds and revenues from the sale of e-books. It may still raise venture capital, but is also planning to announce a new client who sources describe as a “major player” in the education market.
Bob Stein, founder of the Criterion Collection will be on hand tomorrow night to present his new venture, Social Book, a “collaborative ecology for reading, writing, + publishing in the network era.” And Marianne Bellotti will be presenting F.S. Publishing, “tools for writers + publishers to leverage data (like audience reaction + statistical analysis) to produce better books.”