David Wilk talks with Justo Hidalgo of 24symbols

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAI-AAAAJGU3OTczNDU2LTZjNzQtNDNlMi05NzI4LTVmZjllMjBkNDAxNgPublishing Talks began as a series of conversations with book industry professionals and others involved in media and technology about the future of publishing, books, and culture. As we continue to experience disruption and change in all media businesses, I’ve been talking with some of the people involved in our industry about how publishing might evolve as our culture is affected by technology and the larger context of civilization and economics.

I’ve now expanded the series to include conversations that go beyond the future of publishing. I’ve talked with editors and publishers who have been innovators and leaders in independent publishing in the past and into the present, and will continue to explore the ebb and flow of writing, books, and publishing in all sorts of forms and formats, as change continues to be the one constant we can count on.

It’s my hope that these conversations can help us understand the outlines of what is happening in publishing and writing, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.

24symbols is a service to read and share digital books in the cloud, working in any reading device that has an internet connection, and that gives users access to an international and multi-publisher’s catalogue – essentially a subscription model that competes with other subscription services like Scribd, Oyster and Amazon to provide readers with easy access to ebooks for a low monthly fee (currently $8.95 US) and of course provides publishers with access to readers outside of the traditional “buy one copy” model that is still the predominant form of book commerce. The offering to readers is pretty clearly described here. Of course, in terms of competition, it’s not just the other subscription services they are up against, but mainly the hegemony of dedicated reading devices and apps where readers are so used to shopping for ebooks.

24symbols, based in Spain, and strongest in Europe, has over 200,000 titles (and growing fairly quickly), and is now making inroads into the US market. It seems to me that a diversity of business models and ultimately some different ways for readers to read digitally is going to be a necessary groundwork for the growth in e-reading that so many in publishing have thought would have arrived by now.

Justo Hidalgo is a co-founder of 24symbols, a technologist and book lover, and someone whose thinking and energy I have long admired. I wanted to find out more about this company, and its plans for the future, as well as Justo’s current thinking about ebooks and digital reading. This interview will not disappoint those who are interested in different perspectives on the current digital book environment. Justo provides a broad range of stimulating ideas here.

Aside from 24symbols, Justo also teaches Product Strategy and Innovation at the Master’s Degree program in Industrial Design of Nebrija University, and Technology for Managers at the Nebrija Business School in Madrid, Spain. Justo is member of the Internet Society and Board Member and Mentor at Tetuan Valley.

Justo holds a Ph.D. from the University of A Coruña, Spain and a B.S. in Computer Science by the Autonomous University of Madrid, Spain. He has received training in Product Management, Product Marketing, Innovation and Creativity in the universities of Stanford and University of California Berkeley.

Some of his work and thoughts can be viewed on Twitter (@justohidalgo), his blog (in Spanish) and here (in English).

My apologies to listeners, as there were some recording difficulties with this interview, and while our fantastic tech team has done a great job cleaning it up, there are still some low level background noises during some parts of the interview.24symbols

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