There were many surprising victories during the pandemic, and one of those was books. With so many people stuck at home, book sales actually went up despite bookstores being closed in many countries. For example, more than 200 million print books were sold in the UK in 2020, the first time since 2012 that number has been exceeded. Nielsen has estimated that the volume of print books sold grew by 5.2% compared with 2019. Berlin’s Inkitt is doing its best to capitalise on increased book sales and changing habits around reading.
For the period of 2017-2020, Inkitt came in at number 39 in Financial Times’ prestigious FT1000 list for Europe’s fastest-growing companies. The reason for their growth is that their concept has proven successful among a loyal customer base: avid readers and writers. Inkitt’s concept is relatively simple, yet revolutionary. The company is the world’s first reader-powered book publisher. Readers can discover thousands of novels for free on their platform. It gives readers the chance to check out up and coming authors and read works ahead of publishing. Thus, avid readers can discover authors who will one day be renowned, possibly getting in at the ground floor.
When an author uploads a story, the company then measures engagement on those stories and promotes the high-performers. It even publishes those authors using in-house resources if those authors’ works perform well. Besides publishing, there are strong incentives for writers. As one writer put it, “It is a major encouragement to writers; it gives everyone a chance to reach a wider audience and provides an amazing support system to help writers grow”. Some of those writers grow to heights they never imagined. Seemran Sahoo, from one of the more impoverished states in India, Odisha, has made 2.7 million USD to date from “The Arrangement,” a novel she wrote and published on Inkitt entirely on her smartphone. Sapir Englard from Israel originally wanted to use the proceeds from her Inkitt-germinated book, “The Millennium Wolves”, to finance her tuition at Berklee College of Music in Boston. Tuition is expensive at Berklee, but the 8 million USD to date she has made the novel will more than cover it.
Big readership, bigger goals
The goal of Inkitt is to turn the publishing business on its head completely. By implementing clever computer-based algorithms to help select the next big thing, the company consistently plans to create blockbuster books. According to EuroNewsNext, Founder/CEO Ali Albazaz puts it like this, “We’re building the Disney of the 21st century. What I mean by that is a company that is very pragmatic and data-driven and can find the best stories and storytellers worldwide wherever they are being told, and find them, discover them and turn them into big blockbusters and repeat this entire process on a very high frequency.” Because of its initial success, Inkitt has raised $59 million in funding that could help it capitalise on the trend of increased readership. Valuation with the Series B is not publicly disclosed, but experts estimate it is 390 million USD. The company now has seven million users/readers and a community of 300,000 writers, up nearly threefold from the 1.6 million readers and 110,000 writers it had in 2019.