Today Hardbound 3.0 launched for iPhone, bringing a change of direction to the reading service. Hardbound co-creator Nathan Bashaw writes: "We're creating 5-minute, illustrated stories based on the most fascinating books in business, history, and science."
Hardbound has always been about bringing visual storytelling to a mobile-first world. But since its initial launch last year, the focus of that storytelling has fluctuated. Hardbound started out focusing on crafting original stories centered on educational topics. Hardbound 2.0 added to that a new focus: daily news digests. But mere months after 2.0's launch, the news section of the app was shut down.
When the team behind Hardbound decided to move away from daily news digests, as a fan of their work I was disappointed, but I understood their reasoning. The amount of effort that goes into making a Hardbound story is ill-suited for the news market, where news grows quickly irrelevant.
The new focus for Hardbound 3.0 keeps the same mobile-first visual format and applies it to existing, thought-provoking books. Rather than crafting stories that are entirely original, Hardbound's new stories each begin with a well-known book. The goal is not to provide a full summary of the book's contents, but rather to communicate the big ideas behind the book in a quickly digestible, visually attractive way.
Based on the short time I've been able to spend reading some of the new stories in Hardbound, this seems like a solid new direction for the service. Book reading is on the decline in society at large, and the short bursts of reading we do engage in each day – on places like Twitter and Facebook – don't tend to be the most educational or thought-inspiring. While one answer could be to spend less time on social media and more time reading books, Hardbound offers a pleasant middle ground. In short bursts of time, and in a touch-first, visually engaging way, Hardbound's stories can provoke thought and provide new perspectives on the world in the way books often do.
Hardbound is available on the App Store.