November 11, 2015

Reading service aims to create the “YouTube of storytelling”



Georges Perec and cat, not the subjects of this story.

Oolipo, a subscription-based mobile reading service from German publisher Bastei Lübbe, will launch in July of next year, The Bookseller’s Lisa Campbell reports.

In a sidebar profile, Oolipo’s Chief Product Officer Ryan David Mullins explains to The Bookseller’s Molly Flatt that the goal of the project is to “reimagine fiction for digital” (for a flat fee). “We don’t create stories and then ship them through the pipe to our users,” Mullins says, “We’re creating a new kind of platform that will give passionate story—and media—lovers an experience native to their mobile device.”

The platform borrows its name from the innovative group of French writers and mathematicians who called themselves Oulipo, an acronym from the French for the Workshop of Potential Literature. The literary group—which included Raymond Queneau, Italo Calvino, Georges Perec, Marcel Duchamp, Harry Mathews, Jacques Jouet, Daniel Levin Becker and others—made a game of writing, forcing forms into logical or illogical places and producing work using constrained writing techniques. They’re great. (Hey, we even publish the writing of one of Oulipo’s members, as translated by another.)

But what does it mean to reimagine fiction as an experience occurring on your mobile device? According to Molly Flatt in the Bookseller, it means that “reading content” should be short, or “digestible.” It also means that the reading experience should be interactive, featuring not just text but videos, photos, geotracking as well as activity tracking. As Flatt reports,

The stories themselves consist of text split into small, digestible slices, each of which can be given a distinct design by adapting font, colour, size and background, and adding animation or sound. Slices are then augmented with additional multimedia content that’s contextual to what the user is currently reading, and the phone’s notification system uses hooks to keep readers immersed throughout the day.

All of this amounts to what Oolipo hopes will be “the YouTube of storytelling,” which sounds much different than reading. Oolipo understands this. As Mullins tells Flatt, its target market is actually readers who want more from the ebook reading experience. Mullins reiterates, “The future of the [physical] book is…the book. Leave the book alone. There’s nothing wrong with the book. It’s doing just fine.”



Chad Felix is the Manager of Direct Sales and Library Marketing at Melville House, and a former bookseller.