Readers around the world have to be grateful to him, at least all the readers who enjoy reading and talking about what we read. Reading is not a lonesome thing to Javier del Puerto, for him reading must be a collective, open process, allowing the exchange of perceptions and judgments. That was, roughly speaking, the reason why he decided to found Crowdreading, collective reading digital platform that allows readers to share and discuss fragments of the text they are reading.
Crowdreading is not a projetc ruled by chance. Javier’s passion for reading, which has increased since the advent of the electronic book, led him to pursue a Masters in Digital Publishing in Barcelona, resulting in this amazing platform. Although he studied philosophy and computer science, and has lived in Mexico for a year, and in China, for over a decade, our Madrilenian coworker and his ideas are as interesting as a good book.
BCNewt: Could you explain to us what is Crowdreading and why the need to develop a project of this kind?
Javier del Puerto: Crowdreading is a digital platform for collective reading in which you can make your way along the book, as well as share and talk about your reading with other readers. With each of these readings the platform generates an interactive heat map of book, showing how it’s being used by the readers.
This project stems from my conviction that a book has different speeds and densities, mountains and plains that make us read at different pace and intensity. You can read entire chapters or just sections of it, you can read a book diagonally, slowly or by sections, sometimes making you feel desperate about it. I guess everyone have had their particular struggle with authors and books, mine was Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace.
The digital format makes it possible to reflect the actual reading while showing it to new readers that can use it as a gateway to a work they have not read yet, and if we are talking about particular readings they can work as new ways to go through known forests. The fact that nothing like Crowdreading existed before was the need to start this project.
BCNewt: The project is intended to serve as “digital platform for collective reading in which you point your way through books, marking the chapters or paragraphs that you choose.” Why is it vital to speak about “community” as a way to cross paths and achieve goals?
JP: Because no matter how sophisticated the tools are -the life is within the people. It is that interest about the others and the desire to share with them our struggles and joys that pulls us. Even something as seemingly vain as a selfie is nothing more than a desperate love me, right?
BCNewt: When accessing crowdreading.com the user has the opportunity to start reading, login or register to leverage the platform to the fullest. However, what caught our attention the most was the Heat Maps. Could you tell us more about this feature and how it integrates in the Crowdreading system?
JP: The Heat Maps are dynamically generated by the platform from the marked readings or desire lines. They are the core around which orbit the readers. They can comment or discuss it, or create new ones with their own reading.
The way to mark your reading consists (at this stage of development) in underlining the text, called lines of desire or desire lines on the platform. This is the expression used in Urbanism when naming the littel roads arising on a park lawn when they decide that the sidewalk does not lead them where they really want to go.
BCNewt: Describing the platform you say Crowdreading means “many entrances, many exits, many different ways to approach a book.” It is common to associate reading with a private act, but Crowdreading takes it to a community level. Can we talk about reading as a mechanism of integration in which we are no longer participating with three elements (author-book-reader), but in an interactive binomial (text-community)?
JP: The interactivity between autohor and reader, and readers together, has always existed, but the text remained (relatively) inalterable. The most important difference Crowdreading brings is that what you read actually affects what has been read. When you create your desire line you change the text’s heat map and this can affect new interpretations of the text.
It is also true that the interface design has, as a priority, to facilitate the text-community blending. The conversation about the text as a point of debate.
BCNewt: Crowdreading can be interpreted as a hypertext platform (something David Foster Wallace would have enjoyed in life). Do you think this hypertextuality (underline, comment, discuss, encourage the text), taken to its ultimate expression in the digital frame, is the future of the text and the reading?
JP: The hypertext is already the present, I could also say the past, in a lot of disciplines. Journalism is an example: In a single article we can have transmedial content: video, audio, interactive graphics, etc.
The future of reading is not unique; it will have multiple forms. The novel itself has several genres, and each one of them have developed and followed different speeds; just to give you an example: the romantic or the fantasy genre are more popular amongst readers within the digital format that the essay.
BCNewt: For some time the publishing industry has experienced some division when talking about the paper book and the digital book. What is your opinion about this issue and what’s your opinion about it being involved in this sector?
JP: When talking about this you hear the same thing and you get the feeling that there is no discussion as such, but rather enumeration of recurring complaints: piracy, lack of institutional support, costs.
Meanwhile there is people who faces the change with new proposals, interested on the future while opening his ideas to a new reality. To me it’s much more rewarding to listen to these people and discuss with them. The best example of an intelligent debate that really embodies contemporary and innovative issues, is Kosmópolis, a celebration of the amplified literature.
BCNewt: After several years of economic, Spain is talking a lot about supporting entrepreneurs. What do you think about the Spanish Ley del Emprendedor? Are we missing something?
JP: As an entrepreneur I can tell you that I’m unaware of the latest Ley del Emprendedor. And about the one before the last one too. I can not tell if we’re missing something, really.
In my case I can tell you about institutional support from Barcelona Activa (I live in Barcelona). They have helped me a lot and they have given me a lot of resources and guidance without which it would have cost me a lot to develop my project. I recommend it.
BCNewt: A project for shared reading developed from a shared worskapce. A coincidence or an example of new winds for the entrepreneurship in Spain?
JP: This sounds apotheosic! I’ll keep it ;D
BCNewt: What is the benefit, as an entrepreneur and founder of Crowdreading, to work and develop your project within a coworking space?
JP: There are many, but the main thing is to work around people whose projects are absolutely extraordinary, such as elParlante. Also it enables you to know other professionals you can work with or people that can help you out at any given time.
BCNewt: Finally, have you future plans for Crowdreading?
JP: The next step is to open Crowdreading as a publishing platform.
I’m not saying that I do hide it, but if I have a hidden manuscript of four hundred seventy pages in a Los Guerrilleros’ shoebox of wich I’m ashamed to present to any respectable editor, I would like to publish it in an environment where I could find out which parts are read and and which are not easily, so I can receive a feedback from the readers, while having control over the copyrights of my work.
Or maybe I will open a churrería, who knows?
Here you can learn more about Crowdreading. About Javier del Puerto, you can visit his Linkedin or Twitter profiles.