An Interview with Bookb

Imogen Granger

18 September 2019

Jibril Gudal and Abdikaliq Ige from Bookb talk to PUBLIC about why they started Bookb and how their solution is going to benefit book readers and libraries. 

What is Bookb and why have you decided to embark on this venture?

Bookb is a platform that enables residents to order books from their local libraries and have them collected when convenient. We began working on this idea when we realised that within the thousands of libraries across the UK, there are millions of books slowly gathering dust. It seemed like a shame that so many of these books were being left unread. As avid book readers, having explored many public libraries over the past year, it became clear that the problem wasn’t a lack of demand. Public libraries have an enormous collection of the most thought-provoking, informative books ever written.

The problem was the process of discovering, finding and reading these books involved too much friction. We imagined what a modern library in the year 2025 would look like and after many (ongoing) discussions with librarians, we got to work doing our part building the platform to support that.

How is your solution going to benefit book readers and libraries?

It sounds obvious to say, but we believe that by making books more accessible, the number of people spending time discovering and reading books will significantly grow. There are many studies that show the benefits that regular reading has on mental health.

This is particularly important for early childhood reading. Falling behind on reading skills in those early years can have an alarming compounding effect. A mobile phone is now more accessible than a book for many young children. I think it’s important we do all that we can to level the playing field. Building a “Netflix for Books” where discovering and reading paper books is made incredibly simple will go a long way towards that objective.

Libraries have also suffered as other forms of entertainment have grown more convenient.  Nearly 130 libraries were shut down across the UK in 2018. And it’s mainly because library book issues are declining.

“We firmly believe it is not the case that people aren’t interested in reading.”

The data is saying “people are just not reading anymore”. However, we firmly believe it is not the case that people aren’t interested in reading. It is a problem of convenience. By making books more convenient, more people will be reading and we will be generating a recurring source of revenue for libraries in the process.

We are getting started in London but we’d love to spread the model as far and wide as we can. We’re due to begin our pilot with Westminster City Council to achieve this goal. They’ve really supported us with incredible business resources and a working space within the libraries. We’ve had a tremendous response from the public and we’re now gearing up for our public launch.

Your journey with PUBLIC

PUBLIC have been immensely helpful. One aspect we struggled with early on is navigating the public sector space. It can be incredibly daunting if you don’t understand how it all works and who the decision makers are. The insight and conversations we’ve been able to have with senior people in Government has significantly changed our perspective. One important realisation is that whilst the long sales cycles of local councils and governments can be frustrating, this is just a natural consequence of any democratic process whose goal is to act in the interest of its citizens. Our job is to make it easier for local councils and government to understand that what we’re building will make the lives of its constituents better. PUBLIC has also provided much needed advice around product design and customer development. The many conversations we’ve had with the PUBLIC team have unveiled some our most important insights about our customers needs.

“We are incredibly excited to be working with Jibril and Abdikaliq on their new venture, and help them scale their product across more and more councils in London and beyond. We were really impressed by the founders’ drive, which enabled them to secure a contract with such a key council as Westminster. We are confident that Bookb will give new life to libraries by making books more accessible to everyone.”
Chiara, Programme Manager @ PUBLIC

Bookb are launching a public beta soon. So if you are a book reader or an office based in Westminster and want to try Bookb for free as part of our beta, you can register at https://www.bookb.co

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