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[Herald Interview] All it takes is a page a day

Espressobook CEO says anyone can become an author with the Harubook app

Korean startup Espressobook CEO Hwang Sang-chul poses for photos before an interview with The Korea Herald at the Korea Creative Content Agency’s Content Korea Lab in Seoul. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)
Korean startup Espressobook CEO Hwang Sang-chul poses for photos before an interview with The Korea Herald at the Korea Creative Content Agency’s Content Korea Lab in Seoul. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)

South Korean startup Espressobook CEO Hwang Sang-chul says with his company’s app, Harubook, anyone can become an author and publish a physical book.

Using the app, whose name means “one-day book,” users can create a book by writing a page a day. After writing at least 20 pages, authors can easily edit their books using the templates provided.

“Originally, people had to learn Adobe’s book editing software. But with our app, the users can do the editing on smartphones,” Hwang said. He added that they could adjust everything from the fonts to the type size to the placement of illustrations and photos.

“Even just one copy can be published using our app. We also take care of all the adjustment process that the publishers have to undertake,” he said.

Publishing a book on Harubook costs from 8,200 won to 35,200 won ($6.65-$28.50), depending on the number of pages. The maximum is 365 pages.

Hwang said he came up with the business model out of his desire to create a book the way he wanted.

“I wrote an IT-related book myself. In the process, the publishing company asked me to adjust my contents and add pages to make it appealing to the readers. I decided not to publish the latest book I was working on because it turned out to be different from what I had originally intended,” Hwang said.

He co-authored “Living as a Programmer” (unofficial translation) in 2012 with five other writers who all had IT industry experience. Before establishing the startup, Hwang had worked for some 16 years at several conglomerates, including Samsung SDS, Naver and SK Planet.

Established in 2017, Espressobook started with an e-book creation platform. Hwang exited the e-book business the following year while operating the Espressobook website, because he became aware of the demand for platforms that help people publish physical books.

“Also, by operating the e-book service, I found out that there was an entry barrier despite the platform,” Hwang said. “Only people who regularly write or have writing experience participate.” Harubook was created to take down this barrier, he added.

“From daily child care diaries to novels to books about K-pop stars created by their fans, there are all sorts of books created through our service,” he said.

“To promote our new app we held an event to publish free books for 100 people at the 2018 Seoul International Book Fair. It was a huge success as most of the 100 participants who created their books wanted more than one copy to share with their families and friends,” he said. “In November last year, our monthly profit exceeded our costs for the first time.”

The service is currently most widely used for educational purposes, with more than 80 schools, organizations and libraries among Espressobook’s clients.

“For instance, in book writing classes, teachers were only able to teach theoretical content. With our service, the students can apply what they have learned and create a book easily,” Hwang said.

Hwang says Harubook’s next step is to expand the service to the overseas market.

“Although they all use different languages, the concept of the book is universal,” he said. “I participated in the Frankfurt Book Fair last year with Harubook and received positive feedback. The organizer of the book fair in Taiwan also showed interest in our service. Unfortunately, all the main book fairs have been canceled this year due to the coronavirus.”

Hwang said he will focus on expanding his customer base in the domestic market in the meantime.

“When people want to have food delivered, they think of the Baedal Minjok app. I want Harubook to be like that. When people want to publish books I hope that they think of Harubook,” Hwang said.

By Song Seung-hyun (