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Volume: Reimagining Publishing for the 21st Century

Reposted from an article originally posted on September 15 2020 by Jonah Eapen (CEO and Cofounder) on Medium.

Hi. My name is Jonah. I am the CEO and founder of Volume. In this article, I’ll be explaining the idea behind Volume and its place in this world.

Disclaimer: In case you don’t have the time to read this, there is a TL: DR at the end to save your time. Thank me later.

An image from the Chauvet Cave, depicting multiple rhinos.

“We are, as a species, addicted to story. Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories.”
Jonathan Gottschall
The Storytelling Animal

We, Humans, have been telling stories since the origin of time. It started with a few cave paintings 36,000 years ago and ended up with us reading them on our kindles, phones, and tablets. We have constantly been discovering newer ways to tell our stories. In all this, we’ve been keeping art as an integral part of the storytelling experience. Till the advent of mass printing, art was equally crucial to the story as much as the text. Poems were adorned with beautiful images, stories were drawn on stones and caves. Gutenberg’s first Bible, one of the first books to be mass-produced, was separately illustrated with art and embroidery, thus making it a piece of art.

But with mass printing, we removed the art in storytelling and limited it to just words. Owing to the high production costs of printing or hand-drawn illustrations in books, illustrations were avoided as much as possible. We took a step back in storytelling because of technical limitations. This led to the generic format of textual storytelling: stories written in pure text on paper or light background.

And since mass printing became the norm, this continued for about 500 years. Art was stripped out and removed from stories.

Then came the digital revolution.

Computers caused a shift in freedom from rich powerful companies into the hands of a common man. The efforts of Microsoft, Google, and Apple pushed this revolution forward from personal computers to smartphones. And with the digital revolution, storytelling had a potential new home.

But even with iPads and smartphones, publishing companies refused to make a bold move. They still stuck to traditional methods for storytelling. The magical potential that the digital medium offered, was never used to its maximum potential.

Fast forward to 2020, and each of us has a smartphone in our palms. We already spend a considerable amount of time reading on Quora, Medium, and Social Media, yet when it comes to reading stories our options are very limited.

With a smartphone that has a million pixels, storytelling can be made much more than the monotonous pattern of stories used by traditional digital publishing platforms.

Traditional digital publishing platforms for stories just push the same format of books that we have had for the last 500 years and push it under a glass screen. Take any publishing platform (Kindle, iBooks, Barnes & Noble) and compare them with a physical book. It’s essentially your traditional book forced to fit in the dimensions of a phone. But we have forgotten the fact that Art was always an integral part of textual storytelling. This is understandable for print publishing for economic reads. But today, there is no space or printing limitation when it comes to publishing stories on a digital platform and yet we stick to the age-old format As we moved to eBooks, we never went through a process to embrace the digital screen, but rather forced the age-old experience on the digital medium. The result? Readers being forced to use an experience that was never designed for the screen.

Books got pushed behind a screen

Then came the era of self-publishing.

It was a bold move to shift complete power into the hands of writers. All of a sudden anybody could become a writer. But it came with a flaw, in a pool of millions of self-published content that comes out yearly, only a handful of it delivers in quality. On completely removing the role of a publishing company in the process of self-publishing, the quality of the content came into question.

So publishers were needed, but they had to be more open to the upcoming writers.

This is where Volume comes in.

Volume wants to re-imagine what publishing for the 21st century could look like. All of the content that comes to Volume undergoes a quality check while keeping in mind that storytelling isn’t just limited to text. The experience can be made much more immersive with illustrations, artwork, and other media. The modern web allows responsive content that could be styled uniquely.

In an internet where all content layouts look monotonous, here at Volume, the idea was to craft each content uniquely.

The experience of the content can be crafted uniquely for all content: font, background, illustration, dynamic cover arts, and whatnot.

The idea of Volume was to bring forth existing and new storytellers and allow them to present their stories to the world in the best way possible. These storytellers shouldn’t be bound by the limitations of printed books or the digital-book publishing platforms.

What could Volume become?

We can never know. The possibilities are endless. But re-imagining the textual publishing of stories isn’t the only thing Volume wishes to do in the long run. The whole idea of Volume is centred around the Storytelling experience, and storytelling isn’t limited to just text. Through your smartphones, there are 3 major ways you can experience a story: reading, listening, and watching. As new technologies emerge, Volume will explore newer mediums (ignore the pun) of conveying stories. It’s a journey to create great storytelling experiences will never stop and will keep growing every day.

On one hand, Volume acts like a publishing company working with storytellers to bring forth their content. But in the long run, we don’t wish to be the sole publishers of only our Original crafted content. Volume will eventually act as a platform for other publishing companies to bring forth their writers and content into Volume.

Volume needs to exist to give a benchmark of what beautifully crafted content could look like as compared to the monotonous storytelling format that exists. If Volume succeeds in doing that, it will be able to push other publishers into creating high-quality content and explore newer and creative ways to tell stories that were never possible with printed books before.

So TL: DR,

  1. Art and Storytelling have always overlapped each other, and art got removed from the storytelling for the past 500 years to favour economical printing.
  2. Digital Publishing, despite not having any such limitations as physically printed books, still follows the same age-old format but is forced under a glass screen.
  3. Volume acts as a medium where storytellers can work with artists, illustrators, UX Designers, and other talents in bringing forth their vision.
  4. Storytelling needs to evolve based on newer technology and won’t be limited to textual content alone.
  5. In the long term, Volume wishes to create a benchmark for other publishing companies on how content can be made much more immersive for the 21st century and offer a platform for any publishing company in the world to present their crafted content on Volume.

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