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Former Googler announces new ebook venture - Part 1(Interview)

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The next wave of ebook innovation is here!

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Led by former Google manager Jeff Gillis, Potboiler, L.L.C. sets out to re-write how the world reads by tapping into the mobile market.

According to Gillis, Potboiler was founded to create content for the mobile market - for all people who carry mobile devices and use them to receive the information and entertainment they need or desire (i.e., everyone).

With the first offering, "Midnight in Juarez" already available online, Gillis graciously answered some of our questions.

Q: Jeff, how do the e-books created by Potboiler differ from other e-books?

A: Most e-books are simply print books that have been digitized - they were created with the design, technology constraints and framework of print in mind: on paper without embedded video or web links.

But e-books can offer a lot more.

The GetFisk adventure thrillers were written specifically for reading on tablets and smartphones, to appeal to people with lots of choice who are on the go.

The stories are thrilling, stylized and compelling, filled with action, humor, and passion.

They're also tested for easy reading on screens, able to be read in a few hours with new stories coming out every month. In addition, they have enriched content (animation, illustration, audiobook version, links, social components).

Q: What was the inspiration behind creating this series?

A: For hundreds of years, we've been stuck reading black text on white backgrounds, possibly with pictures.

After working at Google for 8 years, I have a love of tech - mobile and the web - and innovation. I'm am also a writer who loves storytelling.

The team at Potboiler (the publisher of GetFisk) includes my father who is also a writer and loves reading.

Both of us commuted to corporate jobs for years. It was on these long commutes that the idea for GetFisk was borne - a thriller that can be consumed quickly but is a rich, addictive, fun escape and takes full advantage of the new functionality possible in reading on a tablet or phone and updates storytelling.

Q: How was the format, the way the book was actually written, determined?

A: We wanted something that is both a speed-readers dream - fun, smart, with action and passion; but also easy and appealing enough for people who don't typically read fiction but who might be more predisposed now that they have a smartphone or tablet.

That was our focus.

We tested all content with a beta audience and then refined it until it would test as well as bestsellers that are on the market now.

For example, a group of beta readers read text from our stories, and also text from a current bestseller in the same genre. We then asked them which one they liked better and why.

We would analyze the results and refine our content and test it in a similar manner again until it tested better than the bestseller. That gave us the confidence to put time and energy into the work.

Q: Are reading habits truly changing in America?

A: Definitely - some online retailers report higher e-books sales than paperback books.

Everyone who has a smartphone or tablet - 50% of Americans and growing fast - is now carrying a portable library and bookstore with them at all times, capable of: finding any book,holding hundreds of books at one time that can be accessed instantaneously, and sharing that information with friends and family.

We're entering a new age of reading and entertainment consumption.

Stories should take advantage of that!

Also, comparatively short, fast-moving escape fiction appears to be gaining favor, particularly among the younger generations who seem to have less time and patience for long reads.

Q: Will all of Fisk's adventures take place in Mexico? Any plans to take him international?

A: Each story takes place in different locales and keeps Fisk, Carlos and Tarita constantly on the move.

The first story, "Midnight in Juarez" focuses on Mexico and with plotlines in Washington, D.C. and Humboldt County, California.

In January, the next story - "Pirate Lair" - starts with a hijacking in the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Somalia, moving into Mogadishu, Greece and the Red Sea.

We also see Tarita in L.A. and Fisk in New York City. Future stories take us into the Congo, Iran's Caspian Sea, Indonesia, the Pantanal region in South America, and more.

For part 2 of the interview, click here.

Additional Resources

Erin Eymard aka The Bookworm has been an Examiner since May 2013. She also has her own book blog,The Bookworm's Fancy, and contributes to The New Podler Review of Books. For more updates, subscribe to the New Orleans Book Examiner.

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