Books: The Real and Virtual Experience

Guest post by Hector Macdonald, Editor of Book Drum

Book Drum had modest beginnings, but our dreams have always been big.  As passionate paperback readers, we watched the arrival of ebooks with a certain amount of scepticism.  What, we wondered, was the point?  As some wit famously noted, a paperback can be dropped in a bath, never runs out of battery, and comes pre-loaded with a book of your choice.  Ebooks seemed to do nothing more than replicate the effect of a printed book on an expensive piece of gadgetry.But that scepticism didn’t mean we were luddites.  The three founders of Book Drum were all keen internet users, and we saw what mobile devices could do for books.  You read about Holden Caulfield hearing a jazz number… wouldn’t you like to listen to it too?  Captain Corelli turns up in Cephallonia… where is that, and what does it look like?  Those kite fights in Kabul… wouldn’t it be nice to see a video of the real thing?  All these extras were already available – if widely dispersed – on the Net.


So we set about building a website that would bring together the images, music, videos, maps, links and background information that could illustrate and explain the world’s best books.  And because there are a lot of books out there, we designed it so that anyone in the world could contribute to the site.

We launched with just four example profiles.  These inspired a pioneering bunch of contributors to add more.  We ran tournaments to encourage further involvement, and knew we were getting somewhere when one competitor profiled the whole of War and Peace!  Teachers and students caught on to the educational value of Book Drum: how much easier to study David Copperfield when you can see what Victorian London looked like, and understand the significance of the waltz in that period.

We had a dedicated following, but Book Drum still felt like a niche interest.  All that changed this month when we launched the Internet’s first literary world map.  By pinning the settings from 150 book profiles to Google’s 3-D Earth, we were able to create something that set publishers, authors and booksellers buzzing with excitement.  Waterstones declared themselves too distracted to shelve any books; Random House feared for publishers’ productivity; and readers the world over kept tweeting the same descriptors: “cool!” “awesome!” “addictive!” “amazing!”.  When the Guardian featured the Map, we knew we’d finally arrived.


Our dreams have always been big.  But as the motto of one paperback hero has it, the World is not enough.  Our World Map is a fun distraction. Book Drum’s really exciting reading idea is still in the works…

Explore Book Drum and let us know what you love most. Do you have anything to add to the site and community? What book do you wish was featured on the site and in what way?

*Note* The above blog post is a guest blog from Book Drum Editor, Hector Macdonald. This content does not necessarily reflect the views of Better World Books (as our lawyers make sure we say). We love having guest bloggers and invite you to email 11@betterworldbooks.com if you are interested in covering a book or topic on the BWB Blog. Thank you, Hector!

One Comment

  1. yazmin adame says:

    Books are my passion, I been building my own personal library since I was like 12 years old, and as I saw the arrival of ebooks I felt the same way: “they just dnt have the soul and feeling of the book” u can’t replace a book, but as you guys have done, internet can sure make books even better. You guys are amazing, best idea ever. Great job!!!!! And I would love to contribute to ur work

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