The idea for The Book of Everyone took shape a few years ago when I became a father for the first time. Steve Hanson – one of the co-founders of The Book of Everyone – 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 sparked the idea of creating a technology platform that could produce a beautiful journey through the world you were born into. We were very much aware of the digital beast that was rendering the physical world obsolete, devouring its way through CDs, books and movies. It was important to us that the technology we developed created something that could be held with both hands. The Book of Everyone grew from a love of printed media. There’s something about the visceral act of turning a page that can’t be matched by scrolling through pixels. A book has the hit on the senses that imparts a connection with the reader that no Kindle, however practical, can match.
The building of the databases behind the platform has been a monumental task that’s taken over 2 years so far, requiring a healthy dose of insanity and obsession. We’ve all got stacks of trivia books in our bathrooms with little Post-It notes sticking out of them, and whether we like it or not, we know how many vehicles are left on the moon (six) and the fact that the modern British army has more horses than tanks. And yes, we’ve bored a few people at dinner parties. However, during this titanic labour of love we’ve been fortunate enough to work with a bunch of incredibly talented writers and artists from all over the world, and a couple of wizards who created the algorithms that drive the personalisation engine in the platform.
In addition to the intuitive personalisation of the technology platform, we felt it was important that customers can add their own flourishes and photos. The result is a book with a high emotional value, made in a matter of minutes. It sounds cheesy but someone recently posted on Facebook a photo of his girlfriend shedding a tear on seeing the book he’d made for her. He’d spent just 8 minutes making it (which I’m sure he didn’t mention to her!). There are not many gifts out there that can have such an immediate emotional impact.
In a world where new technology and “Brand Me” is driving personalisation across every sector – a world where you can dictate how many walnuts or Goji berries you want in your cereal (uk.mymuseli.com) – we hope The Book of Everyone maintains a level of sanity by focusing on nostalgia and the relationships between people rather than taking personalisation to the next level for the sake of it. We always felt personalisation is less about a product answering the wants and caprices of the individual and more about putting the individual in the product – a wonderful celebration of everything that makes them human, including their failings and weaknesses (our Vices and Virtues pages tends to bring these characteristics to the surface!).
When we look to the future, we look beneath the skin of The Book of Everyone to the customisable asset platform. At the moment we are directing the platform to build a beautiful, 50-page book around someone. Our next main goal is to add to the database so that our customers can build a baby book for new births, an anniversary book around two people and even personalised cards based around a particular interest. The platform is highly flexible and also allows 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.
Our previous lives – that is myself, Steve and the other founder Jason Bramley – were spent working around the world for big, multinational advertising agencies and now we’re working for this tiny company we’ve created from scratch. 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.