Printing bespoke digital books of photographs, drawings, poems and other artistic endeavours is nothing new and has been around for years. So, it was just a matter of time until someone would spot a gap in the market and take this to another level. Let me introduce you to The Book of Everyone.
Founders Jason Bramley, Jonny Biggins and Steve Hanson did exactly that. They took the idea of building a website selling personalised books a step further and came up with the idea to combine randomly generated trivia with fun and engaging artworks from some leading illustrators. So far, so good.
I had to immediately try it out for myself and was pleasantly surprised and amused at what I saw. You simply key in a few details about the recipient of your book (name, age, date of birth) and with a bit of magic, the website generates 50 pages of various trivia and stats and a whole heap of fantastic illustrations. The stats are generated using a custom database that contains more than 130,000 scenarios. Some pages can be edited to further customise the end product and the whole process is rather fun. You’ll find pages on ‘the cost of things in your day’, ‘top films’, ‘inventions that year’ and so much more.
Intrigued by the concept I contacted Jonny, one of the founders and CEO, went to meet him in their west London offices and asked a few questions.
Meet Jonny Biggins.
Let’s start at the beginning. How did you 3 meet and what led you to team up forces to create a business? Jason and I were a creative team in our previous life – the one before The Book of Everyone. We worked in advertising agencies in London, Thailand, Singapore, Australia and Spain. In 2003 we began working with Steve in Barcelona. We’ve all had pretty successful careers that in a moment of calculated madness we gave up to pursue a dream, a dream of having our own creative led business that produced something a little more meaningful than an ad for nappies or washing powder.
Once you decided to team up, did you already have an idea for the business in mind? If not, what was the process to get to the idea? A few years ago I became a father and Steve told the story of how he had gone out and bought all the newspapers on the day that his son Saul was born as a memento for him to enjoy when he was older. This got us all wondering how we could create a technology platform that could make a beautiful personalised book around anyone in a few seconds. Something out of the digital world that could be treasured and held in both hands. The idea took shape from there.
Jean Jullien (one of my favourite illustrators) chose the fact that the word ‘Eco-terrorist’ was added to the Oxford Dictionary in 1980.
What gets you excited in life. What gets you out of bed in the morning? It’s the joy of creating a business from scratch, a blank canvas. It’s rather like having a child; it keeps you up at night, requires all your attention but at the same time fills your life with meaning. We’ve all worked for big multinationals corporations and now we’re working for this tiny company that we’ve created. It’s both frightening and very exciting.
Books. Printed Books. Digital Books. What’s your relationship with them? We all love the aroma of an old book; those grassy notes, the muskiness, that hint of vanilla – No matter how practical your kindle, it just can’t hit all the senses like a book. It was important that The Book of Everyone felt great – velvet laminate covers and silk-coated paper.
Diego Ghirado ‘See your name in the limelight’
Sebastian Sattler ‘an amazing age to be’
In your own words, what is the Book of Everyone all about? It’s about you, the world you were born into and your relationship to the person who made it for you. Each book is a beautifully designed celebration of the individual.
I love the combination of the randomly generated trivia with artwork from highly talented illustrators. Was that hard to co-ordinate? It’s been a monumental task that requires a certain insanity and obsession; stacks of trivia books in the bathroom with little post-it notes sticking out of them, knowing that Tolstoy had his first driving lesson at 67 or the fact that earmuffs were invented by a 13 year old. Yes we’ve bored a few people at dinner parties. Along the way though, we’ve been fortunate enough to work with an unbelievably talented team of writers and artists from all over the world and a couple of wizard developers who built the platform.
Jag Nagra ‘who’s your superhero alter ego?’
Pablo Ricciardulli ‘I like you more than…’ Fill in your own words.
You only launched a few weeks ago. You went straight for the Design world. What’s the response been like? It’s been wonderful, plus new artists and writers are coming forward to contribute to keep the database assets growing and evolving. Our customers seem to love the product – it sounds cheesy but on the weekend a customer posted a photo of his girlfriend shedding a tear on receiving her book.
How do you see the product developing. More editable pages, more trivia and different illustrations? We want to keep it simple – you can spend as little or as long as you want to make beautiful personalised book around someone you care about. But at the same time the book needs to constantly evolve as new written entries and artwork are added to ensure the differences between each book continues to grow and we can offer a more personalised story.
Can you see a highly tailor-made version, where people commission special pages from your list of recommended illustrators? Or a version for kids? What we’ve built is a customisable asset platform. At the moment we are directing it to build a beautiful 50-page book around someone. In the near future we will produce a baby book for new births, an anniversary book around two people and personalised cards based around a particular illustrator or interest.
Patrick Bras ‘top telly’ in 1963
If you had a crystal ball and could see 5 years ahead, where would your business be? The content management system that feeds the bookmaker is built to allow for cultural and linguistic differences so we can tailor the content to different counties. Our mission was always to make the world feel good one book at a time, so in 5 years I’d have less hair and a few more wrinkles but be happily doing just that.
Thank you Jonny for your time. I have no doubt The Book of Everyone will be a great success. Jonny has kindly offered to further help me celebrate #tinasjubilee by giving away the following:
1. First winner will receive a hardback version (includes a free digital version)
2. Second winner will receive a paperback version (includes a free digital version)
3. Third winner will receive a digital version
Leave a comment here telling us WHO? and WHY? would be the recipient of your book (should you be a lucky winner). For extra POINTS to win, go to The Book of Everyone, put in the details of someone you care about and tell us what your favourite page is and why?
The giveaway is open worldwide and will end at 6pm GMT on Friday 7th March 2014 where 3 lucky winners will be randomly chosen. Good Luck everyone!
Thank you everyone for entering. The winners have been chosen. Congratulations to:
I will be emailing you all with further details…. hope this brings a smile to you on a Monday afternoon!