Stephen Cole, artisanal ebook vendor, is bent over a cluttered bench, deep in thought. He is putting the finishing touches to the fourth ebook to be produced by his workshop in as many days.
“Output is really ramping up,” he says, wiping work-rough hands on his leather apron. “Mind you, it’s not about the volume. At eBooks.com it’s all about hand-crafted quality.”
Cole and his small team of creatives formed the ebook co-operative in a tin shed in the Outer Hebrides in 2000, with the aim of bringing thoughtful, artisanal values back to book publishing. “We saw the advent of the web as a tremendous opportunity to go against the trend, against automation which is ruining the quality of life.
“People really want hand-built ebooks, made from ethically sourced, sustainable, locally grown materials. Our ebooks are made with 100% organic, gluten free components.
“They said we were crazy but I just had this feeling… ” he trails off, his attention caught by a stray pixel under his colleague, Benedict Noel’s, lathe. Bends down and carefully lifts it on a fingertip to his eye. “So there you are,” he murmurs and immediately inserts it into the current project.
“Benedict, this baby’s finished — ready to upload.”
It’s this kind of attention to minute detail that sets eBooks.com apart from its Gargantuan competitors. Every ebook produced in this studio is unique.
The appeal of Cole’s bespoke publishing reaches far beyond the immediate neighborhood. They recently had an order from a Sami herdsman in Lapland, who urgently needed a text on smoking paleo reindeer flesh with avocado. The eBooks.com atelier worked round the clock and delivered the ebook in just 23 hours.
“It’s that kind of one-on-one relationship that makes it all worthwhile,” sighs Cole, who left a high-powered career in private equity to take up ebooks.
Cole’s team makes a point of visiting their suppliers in the far corners of the developing world. Just this month they conducted site visits in Frankfurt, London and Paris.
eBooks.com is one of a growing number of pop-up artisanal vendors popping up in unexpected places, such as the internet. “It’s important to pop up,” says Cole, “instead of, you know, staying there.”