Nobu Su, the serial inventor and Taiwanese shipping magnate, made it his Mission: Impossible to revolutionise the publishing industry using cutting-edge, real-world technology. Special agent Jonathan Freeman investigates.
Nobu.store, the new e-publishing platform, was launched last week to much fanfare. Observers described it as a “financial breakthrough for publishers” and said it had the potential of “revolutionising the way people, everywhere, consume literature”. In an increasingly competitive, innovation-driven industry, that’s high praise indeed.
The platform – the first of its kind in the world – aims to tap into the $14.5billion global ebook market by giving publishers and authors the opportunity to rent, rather than sell, their titles. That’s good news for consumers – who can hire ebooks, text books, academic journals, e-comics and e-magazines for a fraction of their RRP – and great news for content creators whose work may otherwise go unsold.
But the site doesn’t stop there. Mission: Impossible-style technology causes rented literature to ‘self-destruct’ after a predetermined period of reading time. Little is known about the patented technology other that it pre-encrypts documents with a self-timing ‘fuse’. Once the fuse ‘detonates’, all traces of the PDF document are removed from the desktops, smartphones and tablets on to which it was downloaded.
This so-called “time-stamped” technology is (correctly) touted as a major breakthrough in the fight against copyright infringement and piracy. But it also benefits consumers by freeing-up valuable memory on their digital devices after the content has been consumed.
Publishers and authors are free to specify the rental price and the period of time – between two and 20 days – before their titles disappear. They are also able to sell their titles in ebook and print-on-demand hard copy. Nobu.store receives a commission on each rental, much like Amazon. Uniquely, all products can be read free-of-charge (using the Nobu Reader app, a prerequisite for all Nobu downloads) where they will remain for up to two hours before self-destructing.
Its creator, Nobu Su, is no stranger to the world of creative innovation. He is the billionaire chairman of global shipping giant TMT and the author of two exposes into the 2008 financial crash – The Gold Man From the East and Dynasty Escape. But Nobu is also the founder of OceanNet, a Taiwanese-based software company behind the self-timing technology. It is understood that he first secured a patent for the “timestamp” publishing tech in the early 2000s and that he has spent the intervening years researching the market.
It is too early to tell if Nobu.store will transform the publishing industry in the way its proponents claim. But if the self-destructing technology works as it should, the possibilities are endless – and explosive.
Q&A with Nbu Su, founder of Nobu.store
Nobu.store, the new ebook rental platform, is making waves in the publishing industry. We sit down with its enigmatic creator, the Taiwanese shipping tycoon, Nobu Su.
Q: Tell us about Nobu.store. What makes it so special?
A: The technology at its core is different from other rental sites in that material literally disappears after a certain period of time. This removes unnecessary disk space for consumers and helps publishers of all types of material to earn additional revenue for their work.
Nobu.store offers authors expertise, independence and flexibility to create and share what they love with the world. I was passionate about providing authors with a user-friendly platform for telling stories, sharing knowledge and fulfilling their creative potential, with the Timestamp feature ensuring protection of data.
Q: Book publishing is a world away from international shipping. Where did the idea come from?
A: I developed the ‘timestamp’ technology in 1999 and patented the technology in the USA shortly after. Although I made my name from my global shipping business, TMT, my true passion has always been innovation. As TMT grew in scale, I turned my attentions to technology, and by the early noughties started to increasingly focus on technological innovations and the future impact of the internet and the use of data. I had noticed the problems with illegal downloading, and also of memories rammed to capacity. Not to mention the huge numbers of creatives unable to find a suitable platform for their work.
Q: What was the solution that you came up with?
A: I was determined to establish a more effective and profitable route to publishing everything from a graphic novel or comic to a biography or academic text. The idea was to protect the data from piracy and illegal copying by making that data disappear from a reading app at a specific time. This remains a core tenet of Nobu.store’s mission – to make content creation and data deletion a simpler and more rewarding experience for all concerned, while giving readers a simple, space-saving way to read books.
Q: How can readers sign up to use the platform?
A: It’s a really simple process – readers can visit http://nobu.store and click to register. It takes no more than a couple of minutes. Everything on the store can be read via the Nobu Reader app, which can be downloaded from IoS and AoS.
Q: What materials are published on Nobu.store at the moment and how much do they cost?
A: The site is still in its infancy, although the technology is all in place. Currently readers can download a number of e-magazines and e-comics, as well as my own books – starting with The Gold Man From the East and Dynasty Escape. There are some classic books on there too, and it is also possible to rent the film documentary, The Outsider. The idea is to open the platform up to small and medium-sized publishers from around the world, with the aim of creating a very large library of material for consumption.
Q: Who can publish on Nobu.store?
A: Nobu.store is not a publisher, rather it is an open platform for anyone to use. So, we will not ‘reject’ an author’s work, and it is possible to publish e-books on any subject – whether fact or fiction. We don’t impose any restrictions on the content or topic of the book, except that it should not violate the law of the land or our terms and conditions. Clearly, we won’t accept work that violates somebody else’s copyright or to which you don’t have publishing rights. Otherwise, authors should feel free to prepare their PDF and submit it for publication!