Kaleem Ahmad, President and CEO of Evolusent, tells us about turnit.com, a free publishing site intended to facilitate online publishing. He's particularly interested in attracting comic book publishers to the site. Comic and Gaming Monthly caught him by phone.
Comics & Gaming Monthly: "Can you explain who you are are and what you do, just so everyone can know?"
Kaleem Ahmad: "Absolutely. Evoluscent is a publishing platform that incubates constant focus, optionally and ideas with five businesses and launch ideas, and so forth. Three years ago or so that we launched turnit.com as a free digital publishing platform for publishers."
CGM: "Can you explain a bit more about turnit.com?"
KA:"Originally it was started as a pure digital publishing platform for magazines in this community. We have one of the largest lifestyle magazines in Canada. What happened was that we were looking for a digital publishing solution, and found that the costs were prohibitive, there were platform fees, and all sorts of stuff. You understand publishers, they generally don't have a lot of money to spend the odd way, so as the technology developed more quickly, we developed an additional publishing platform that would allow presentations from all sides, large and small. There are all sorts of magazines today on our platform there, from very large organizations to small. Over the last few years we've made the platform HTML 5, and made them available on all the mobile devices with the browser, along with with Ipad and Android applications, or Iphone, whether it's a form factor or a Blackberry Playbook form factor or an Ipad form factor. We're launching all these different apps all over. The applications are available today via HTML 5. What we have been doing is really proselytizing the message to the publishers in the various verticals, to upload to the program, create a publisher profile, to upload your publications whether they are comics, magazines, books. We can eliminate any typos. All you have to do is upload a PDF file, we have a file-conversion application that will convert the file and allow you to view it. It's all cost-free, there's no fee for using it. You can put a user password protection on your publication as well. You can charge for it, but we're not taking any charge from the publishers. We do not intend to charge any fee from the publisher whatsoever.
CGM: "So how does turnit make its money? Does it make its money at the End User?"
KA: "To be perfectly honest we do, technically, because we do make money from all sorts of other professional services, offerings that we have from Fortune 500 companies, to regulatory bodies, to government agencies. We're a technology firm that provides solutions to major organizations, so we do make money. As far as turnit is concerned, we're not really concerned with trying to figure out a monetary model for it, we're more interested in actually bringing the techonology out and allowing publishers to publish, and really experimenting and discovering what digital publishing is all about. At this point we're not intending on charging any publishers. The model is largely been focused around advertising, but we haven't rolled out our advertising program yet. So we're really letting publishers kick around the platform, upload their magazines, their comic books, their graphic novels, whatever-have-you books."
CGM: "Makes sense. So, can you tell me what the advantage of going this way for comic publishers would be?"
KA: "Well, first and foremost, it's a highly visual medium and has the real ability for the publishers to put their comic books online on turnit It really allows you to take advantage of the HTML 5 world because we will convert that automatically to the HTML 5 format. If you actually upload a PDF document of a comic book to our platform, your readers will get access to that on any mobile device through a browser. And its free, so as a producer why would you not put your publication on here?"
CGM: "Is there a size limit you allow companies? Can a big company do this, or is it only designed for small publications?"
KA: "No, we have warrant organizations, as well as very large publishers are coming on board. We do not limit publisher size in all we have some very large publishers on board. THis is an experiment not just in technology, but also in digital use and a publishing model, we really want to hack out all the various elements. We want as much feedback as possible, we would love to hear from publishers. We want to hear what works, what doesn't work, what features they want. Work is also something, so we're really interested in engaging the publisher and also the reader too, the audiences. We want to understand what works, what doesn't work, what the experience is. This is a collaborative experience."
CGM: "WHere is turnit based out of?"
KA: "We have offices here in Toronto. The parent company is evolusent.com. We have clients all of the world, you have europe, and there the physical head office on the world."
CGM: "What makes turnit different than other options that are out there right now, because there's quite a few now?
KA: "From our perspective, it's really a focus on experimenting with a lot of the free platforms out there, understanding how they're doing. What I've seen from over the course of a decade in the industry is at some point there is this limitation. There are free plaftorms that you can get at prefunctionality that have a limit, and you pay extra for extra features. What we're trying to do is no extra costs, it's not like we're giving you a watered-down light version for free and some suped up version for cost or some fees. That's really differentiating us from a cost perspective."
"From a technology perspective we're an HTML 5 focus group, so we're going to for push along the HTML 5 agenda as far along as possible. So really from a platform perspective, it's really built for the future, but we welcome all the the platforms out there. Our view is that publishers should be putting their publications on as many platforms as possible, especially the free ones. We're just leading that charge."
CGM: "There's a lot of problems with digital piracy now with magazines now? DOes your product prevent that or does it have safeguards that guard against magazine piracy?
KA: "Well, y'know, the history of content online is really a periled history of content piracy over the years, there's Napster, whatever have you. Nobody can evergive you a definitive answer. However, what we do allow publishers to do, and we're adding additional functionality to our platforms, is to limit access to unwanted users. Certainly you can charge for your publications as a requirement to the registration process before you get them access to the publication. Other digitial right management technologies do exists in the States, forms vary whether its this platform or the other, but really, the jury is still out on whether or not RPRM is going to work in the states. But we're tracking all the trends, we're involved in the industry. We're going to implement those ones that are usable, using their password protection with the technology available today."
CGM: "Is this the way of the future, are we moving away from the concept of print or an addition to print?"
KA: "We also have magazines that are print, as well as publish quite a lot online so we are definitely an integrated technology company. We defintely believe there is a place for print we believe certain print products have a long life. It's a question of really understanding your audience and how your audience consumes content. THe key question we ask ourselves internally is how do people consume content? If we can figure that out and understand where that's going, we can navigate this course all the better. At this point, I think that both digital and print have a viable presence in the marketplace; it's naive because they told us that print is dead. The model has changed, the marketplace requirements has changed, the user behavior and the modality, the platforms that you put content on have changed, and we have to understand it. And this is really example of the experiment, and the whole quandary of questions as to where this is all going. As we said, we're tracking all the trends we're try to stay ahead of the curve."
CGM: "For anyone who is interested in having thir comics published through you guys, what are the things that we need to know?"
KA: "Number One, they should to go to the website. One of the things I should say is that we don't have any comic publishers, but we'd love to have comic publishers on our platform."
"Number Two: You can self-register, you can sign up as a publisher, you can peek around, you can read the instructions as to what the PDF file size used to be. We're more than happy to get as many comic publishers. We would love to have as many comic publishers coming online and loading their comics to the platform as well."
CGM: "And you will we working on all the major portable platforms (Iphone, Android, Blackberry, Ipad?"
KA: "From an HTML 5 perspective, we already do. from an apps persepctive, we are launching Iphone and Android apps, we're also working on other apps. But Android and IoS apps are the synonymous platforms to work with, even Playbook is putting Android apps through their upgrades."
CGM: "Any final things to mention for anyone that's interested in going to your platform?"
KA: "It's a good platform, we're trying to reach out to the community, the publishing and reading community, and really ask for nothing more than just give it a try, give us feedback and let us know what you think and how we can improve, and what things really matter to you as a publisher or as a reader. That's really the net of our message to the community."