Ideas from Innovative Digital Publishers

Today we have an inspirational roundup for you as we take a look at some of the cool things the most forward-thinking digital publications are doing online now.


Image focus as you scroll down :: Sidetracked Magazine

This is one of those tiny details you might not even notice if you’re reading in a hurry, but its subtlety makes it an even more thoughtful touch. With a lot of fixed background images, as you scroll you simply see less and less of the top as you scroll down. What Sidetracked did is to place a focus on the most interesting part of the image (the bicyclists) such that as you scroll, both the top and bottom of the image contract to leave the bicyclists there as long as possible.


Screenshot of article from Sidetracked Magazine with a full-sized header imageScreen Shot 2015-04-09 at 18.05.19Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 18.05.28

Interactive animations :: QUEST from KQED Science

Creating educational digital books today often means considering interaction and engagement. KQED created interactive animations for their online books to help readers and students understand how the Berkeley Darfur Stove is more efficient than a regular, three-stone fire.

Screenshot of KQED's Berkely Darfur stove interactive animation

Background videos in the Table of Contents :: Government of Maharashtra

The Directorate of Information Technology for the Government of Maharashtra put together a fantastic digital version of their report on the State of e-Governance. While the table of contents page can often be the least interesting part of the publication, they chose to use that as the document’s opening and made it more interesting with a background video and a lovely, low-key soundtrack.

Screenshot from the gov't of Maharashtra's interactive multimedia report on e-Governance


Receive a free, great story every week :: Electric Literature

A great way to keep you top-of-mind for your readers is by sending them things you know they’ll be interested in. If your audience is readers, a free story every week is a wonderful idea to build an email list as well as remind them to come back for more.

Screenshot of Electric Literature's signup form for free weekly stories

Fade-out story previews :: Scratch

With paid content, many publishers struggle with things like pay wall, pay wall + x number of free articles per month, share-to-read, and the numerous other ideas out there to monetize your publication. Scratch has done a nice job of fading out the article’s text so that articles can easily be shared, but subscribers get the real value, without it being a painful experience as a visiting reader.

Screenshot of Scratch magazine showing faded out article text

Exclusive articles available to prime subscribers :: Nautilus

Nautilus makes many of their articles available free online and charges instead for the convenience of the tablet and eBook editions. In addition, they offer a Prime level subscription which includes the tablet and eBook issues as well as bonus articles not available otherwise as well as occasional surprises.

Screenshot of Nautilus magazine showing exclusive articles available for Prime members


Save to read later :: Aeon

Aeon magazine not only provides all of their stories for free, they also encourage readers to download and save them to read later. Offered options include Readability, Instapaper, Pocket and Kindle.

Screenshot of article from Aeon magazine showing read later options

Give comments (responses) their own page :: Medium

Comments can be the best or worst part about an article, and online readers are often warned to stay away from them for the sake of their own sanity.

Screenshot of Medium creating separate response pages for article comments

Listing size of downloadable ePub files :: Nautilus

As shown in the Nautilus image above, the ePub file descriptions indicate how large the file downloads are. This can be really helpful for readers who might not have wifi available at the time or who might be strapped for space on their device. Knowing the file download size also gives you a better understanding of why a file download is taking a bit longer, or whether you’ll be able to get it downloaded before your bus arrives.

Select article by number of words :: Aeon

Another great example by Aeon is their article layout within their categories. Similar to Medium’s now familiar “4 min read” annotations attached to articles there, Aeon lists the number of words in the article under the author’s name (for films, it similarly lists number of minutes in the video). This can help when selecting an article, when you know you either have a lot or a little time.

Screenshot from Aeon magazine showing listing of articles including their number of words

Seen any great examples of innovation in digital publishing lately? Let us know!

If you have some interesting ideas you’d like to talk about for your own publication, get in touch. Woopie is a powerful platform and we’ve helped publishers like KQED, the Government of Maharashtra, and many others to create innovative and forward-thinking content!

Distributing books for free while building marketing lists

How would you distribute a book if you needed to build a marketing list?

image of a free book-sharing neighborhood library

For many eBook publishers and authors, knowing who is reading your work is as important as making it available in the first place. But there are a few things to think about in terms of restricting content, even if it’s being given away for free. Digital Rights Management, or DRM, and other forms of locking down a book often make it more painful for readers and does more to dissuade the audience you’re looking for.  

Limiting Access

There isn’t one best way in terms of distribution because it always depends on the publisher’s situation and requirements. So here are a few that we have found work great and are the least painful for the people who really want to read your stuff:

* Unique URLs per reader – If you want to send a book out to your mailing list, you can use a tool which creates a unique URL for each person on your mailing list. Obfuscated URLs, perhaps through a hash on the person’s email address or signup date, are a good way to make it difficult for external folks to guess it. However, people can share it publicly of course which brings us to:   

* Time-delimited URLs – You can set a download link that is available for a specific amount of time, only 24 hours or only one week for example. Again they are shareable, but putting a start and end on it means that you can monitor to minimize public sharing. If that’s not restrictive enough:   

* One-time-click links – You can also set a link so that once someone hits it multiple times it expires. This means that essentially everyone gets one shot to download the content. Which is fine if they’re logged in on the device where they want to download it, but that may not always be the case. So as a backup: 

* Make the book available inside your walled garden – If your readers are people who log in to your app on a regular basis, make the book downloadable from there. If people don’t log in to your app, you can use a service:   

screenshot of scribd, which lets readers log in to read unlimited content

* Use accounts to monitor downloads – This is a pretty well-understood paradigm as it’s used by popular publishers like Lonely Planet & Safari. Users click a link, and enter their email address or create an account. That gives them access to a specific number of downloads of different versions of the book. For example, people might be able to download up to 3 each of the ePub, mobi, and PDF versions.   

screenshot of Lonely Planet download page where user can download different quantities of ebook versions.

* Email the book itself – If your book is small (generally under 20MB), you could simply include it in an email blast to your mailing list. That doesn’t stop people from forwarding it to others, but it makes access a little less complex for readers. 

Tracking Readers

All of the above solutions cover ways to ensure your current list of approved readers can access the book. But if the point of making the book available is to get people to share and grow your marketing lists, here are some good approaches for that:   

* Share with a friend – All of the above could be used with a “share with a friend” email input box. Have your current readers give you an email address of a friend who would also appreciate the book, and send it to the new person with one of the methods above.   

screenshot of Intercom's ebook page where readers can download the book by sharing emails of friends who would also like to read it.

* Use a cookie to identify new folks – Cookies aren’t always a failsafe method, but having one static link that people click would allow you to check if a cookie was set on the person clicking the link, and if they aren’t already in your list, ask them for their email to read or download the book.

* Default to asking for emails – If you’re putting up a landing page for the book anyway, you could certainly just ask for emails by default for people hitting the page. This could get a little annoying to some readers, but it may be slightly less painful than being asked to create an account. 

screenshot of Marketo's ebook page which defaults to asking for email addresses unless you are logged in.

* Share a sample – People reading the web version of the book could click a link to share the current page or chapter via twitter or facebook. We’ve seen this done with a smart URL that strips out the navigation and chrome so that people don’t click sharing links and get door slams.

screenshot of Valuable Content's page where readers can input their email address to get a free chapter.

There are unlimited ways to share and distribute your publication, so it is important to think carefully about the way that makes the most sense for your business goals. 

Photo courtesy of

If you’d like to talk about your company’s goals for publishing and reaching more readers, get in touch. We’re happy to discuss a variety of publishing and distribution options that will work for your content.