I had occasion to mention Atavist Books in March of this year. when it launched with the novella Sleep Donation and proclaimed its intention to “revolutionize book publishing” with interactive multimedia books. At the time, I expressed my doubts that anybody actually wanted the platform it was building.

It seems that events have borne out my supposition. Saying that it’s found “the market for highly innovative enhanced full length literary e-books still heavily relies on a print component and has yet to emerge,” Atavist Books has announced it will be closing down its e-book-publishing operation as of the end of 2014, folding its assets into sibling company IAC and its magazine-publishing partner The Atavist. The Atavist, which just closed a new round of funding last week, will carry on.

I suppose I could take some small degree of satisfaction in saying “I told you so,” but I don’t, really. The only way new things get invented is for people to go out there and try them, even if other people (like me) think they’re dumb. I’ve been wrong before, plenty of times, and so has everyone else. I would have been happy to be wrong now.

We need more people out there trying new things, now more than ever. After all, whatever new gimmick eventually disrupts Amazon is going to have to come from somewhere.


  1. Chris:

    A nicely-written piece that reflects an encouraging hope for innovation in publishing.

    However, If I didn’t know how how badly failures like this affect investors who should have put their money in a more realistic, market-reflective business, I’d probably agree with your general statement about innovative approaches to publishing.

    In this case, some market research would have shown that starting this company was almost guaranteed to fail. You essentially knew that yourself; if you did, then they should have.

  2. Of course. I agree with you completely, and have mentioned that aspect of the situation elsewhere in relation to this case.

    Nonetheless, investors often trust the person who brings them to the investment. Not all investors can fully-understand the nuances of a business plan or the accompanying financials. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t invest. But in the case of Bilbary, SOMEBODY up the line, but NOT the founders, should have done some SERIOUS due-diligence–if not right away, then after the first $1.2 million was even a third of the way gone.

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