May 17, 2013

First Publishing Hackathon to be held in NYC and judged at BEA


The Publishing Hackathon will be held at Alley NYC, a shared office space for startups, on the weekend of May 18th-19th. The  top five team ideas will advance to a final judging round at Book Expo America.

Hackathons have become common in the tech industry as a way to bring bursts of creative and programming energy to solve a problem in a short amount of time. According to the organizers of a hackathon being planned for the weekend of May 18-19, there’s never been one for the book publishing industry. Billed on the website as the “First-Ever Publishing Hackathon” teams of people from the investment, development, design communities are being encouraged to sign up to attend the hackathon weekend. The five winning presentations will then be judged during Book Expo America at the end of May.

Joanna Stone Herman, CEO of Librify, a new social ebook reading startup, who came up with the idea, says book publishing is the industry that needs a hackathon most. “The book industry is the most ripe for disruption and innovation because it has been around for centuries and there is such an opportunity for change,” she told me. “We want to bring together the best of technology and innovation to come up with solutions.”

She explained that the weekend will begin with a panel of experts from the book industry in the morning, who will discuss the problems that publishers, authors, and readers are encountering, particularly in the area of book discovery. Book discovery will be the open ended theme of the hackathon weekend—the fact that as more books are being published, there are less retail outlets, and fewer places for people to find books in traditional ways.

Teams will form naturally to allow the participants to tackle the solution that they feel is best for this problem. Mentors from the start up community will be on hand to help teams develop their ideas, which will be presented on Sunday afternoon. The top five presentations will advance, and those teams will have two weeks to further develop their ideas for a final judging round at Book Expo on May 31st at 3pm, with a panel of judges that includes Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit, Douglas Rushkoff of Code Academy, and Randi Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Zuckerberg Media.

Herman said she brought her idea to Rick Joyce, CMO of Perseus Books Group, who have joined as a partner for the event, and Steven Rosato, Event Director at BookExpo America, who helped organize and bring in judges. The winners of the hackathon will receive $10,000 and will win a breakfast meeting with Ari Emanuel, co-CEO of William Morris Endeavor.



Claire Kelley is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House.