Palo Alto-based startup Graphicly opened the doors of its new cross-platform e-book platform wide to the public on Thursday, after announcing it last month and undergoing a month-long invite-only beta. Graphicly’s efforts to make it easy for creators to publish digital comic books and other image-heavy electronic texts across multiple platforms quickly and easily came out of a realization that the startup’s original direction as a “marketplace within a marketplace” ignored the bigger opportunity.
Graphicly CEO and founder Micah Baldwin told BetaKit in an interview that Graphicly’s platform is designed to help the comic market grow. “Being an ecommerce store wasn’t the way to do it,” Baldwin said. “Creators are the heart and soul of comics, and if all decisions are driven solely by sales, great stories get buried. We have always believed in the opposite – great stories should be seen. By providing creators the tools to let them fish (versus just giving a fish), we are confident that the comics industry will see a resurgence.”
To accomplish this, Graphicly set out to make the distribution process dead-simple, meaning creators don’t have to deal with the rigors of navigating a variety of the closed ecosystems used to sell ebooks, something GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram recently called a “walled garden.” Graphicly’s approach simplifies not only getting ebooks ready for various markets, but also unifies the analytics associated with each. “We allow authors and publishers to take their fixed format, graphic heavy content and distribute it across multiple marketplaces and get analytics,” Baldwin explained. “Not just sales data, but social engagement, and more interestingly, behavioral data. Allowing publishers and authors to understand how people are consuming the content is almost more important than knowing if they bought or shared it. ”
Baldwin also said that Graphicly isn’t limiting its vision to comics, either, even though that’s where the platform’s focus lies. “We are supporters of creativity regardless of the genre,” Baldwin told us. “The platform is built to let great stories be seen. Doesn’t matter if its a picture book, art book, yearbook, cookbook or graphic novel.”
With an expanded focus, Graphicly could be entering into competition with a number of other startups focused on helping publishers make digital texts work across a range of devices. Inkling and Vook, for example, are doing similar things. Inkling is focused primarily on textbooks however, and Baldwin says Graphicly is simpler than anything else out there at the moment.
“Its a few steps from creating your book to seeing it on every marketplace imaginable,” he pointed out. “You upload your book, add some metadata, crop and order pages, set a reading path (via regions or panels), select the marketplaces, and press submit. Done.”
So far, the idea seems to be resonating with users. Baldwin said that Graphicly has already had 2,000 authors and publishers sign up to use the platform. The timing could be just right for Baldwin and his team – Apple’s iBooks Author release put the spotlight on rich-media digital texts, and independent comics creator R Stevens has raised $43,779 so far on Kickstarter for a project that collects the lifetime archive of his Diesel Sweeties online comic into a single ebook collection. Graphicly provides an outlet for creators who don’t want the platform restrictions that come along with Apple’s offering or don’t have the clout to raise lots of money on their own to bring their products to market.