Bitlit CEO Peter Hudson (standing) and co-founder Marius Muja
Vancouver startup aiming to secure digital editions for book owners gets investor vote of confidence
Bitlit Media Inc., a Vancouver startup that secures free or discounted digital editions for owners of hardcopy books, has closed a round of seed financing.
While the parties involved are not disclosing the amount, Mike Volker, one of the investors and president of WUTIF Capital (VCC) Inc., said it was within the typical seed funding range of between $500,000 and $1 million.
Three Angels Capital of Toronto, run by Michael Serbinis, founder and former CEO of Kobo Inc., also participated in the funding. According to Volker, the participation of Serbinis was a vote of confidence in Bitlit. “I always look at what industry experts are thinking, people who are familiar with that space. Other investors who know the space far better than I do were all interested in it,” said Volker.
Bitlit negotiates agreements with book publishers that allow owners of hardcopy books to download digital editions for free or at discounted prices. To date it has negotiated agreements with more than 75 publishers, including Greystone Books of Vancouver, Coach House Books in Toronto, and Kids Can Press, owned by Corus Entertainment.
Users download the Bitlit app, available on the App Store or Google Play store, and submit a photo of the book cover. If Bitlit determines the book is eligible, the owner then proves ownership by submitting a photo of the book’s copyright page with their name written on it. Bitlit verifies that it’s not a library book and the photo wasn’t taken in a bookstore; then the owner can download a digital edition.
According to Bitlit CEO Peter Hudson, Bitlit offers a simple solution to a common problem: consumers have shown a demand for both hardcopy and digital books, and each has its place, but those who have bought a paper book balk at paying again for the digital edition. He explains that the idea arose in the summer of 2012 when he and a friend had an argument over lunch. Hudson knew he could prove his point, but the proof was sitting on his bookshelf at his home. Obviously carrying your collection of hardcopy books wherever you go is not the answer, but according to Hudson readers are also finding that going all-digital has its limitations too. For one thing, readers can’t share digital books with friends, but also millennials, who tend to do their reading on tablets rather than e-readers, are finding that constant interruptions from text messages and Twitter feeds are not conducive to book-reading.
Publishers and booksellers welcome the initiative, Hudson says, because it not only boosts interaction with potential customers, but it increases sales; consumers are more likely to buy a hardcopy book if it’s bundled with an e-book.
Bitlit was founded in December 2012, and is currently completing a thee-month mentorship program at the GrowLab accelerator in Vancouver. In April this year it beat out dozens of startups from B.C., Washington and Oregon to place first in a pitch competition at Cascadia Startup Day. It will be presenting at the Metabridge startup conference in Kelowna on June 12-13.
Hudson, a UBC Engineering Physics grad, was previously co-founder of Aquatic Informatics Inc., supplier of analysis tools to the water-resource industry.