It is the best time in history to be an author! We have everything we need as indie authors to run a digital, global, location-independent, scalable publishing business from a laptop. So what's coming next?
In today's show, I discuss the potential changes coming to publishing and to society in the next 10 years with Emmanuel Nataf, co-founder of Reedsy and a Millennial entrepreneur. We touch on Blockchain, smart contracts, and cryptocurrency, as well augmented reality, language translation, and the future of jobs.
This podcast is sponsored by Kobo Writing Life, which helps authors self-publish and reach readers in global markets through the Kobo eco-system. You can also subscribe to the Kobo Writing Life podcast for interviews with successful indie authors.
Emmanuel Nataf is the co-founder and CEO of Reedsy, a marketplace that connects authors and professional freelancers, as well as a street photographer for fun. He's also a millennial and invested in cryptocurrency.
- How blockchain is different from Bitcoin
How blockchain and crypto-currencies will affect authors
- How the book sales platforms will change with the rise of these technologies
- How Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality might affect authors
- The future possibilities related to language translation and technology
- The future of jobs
You can find Emmanuel Nataf at Reedsy.com and on Twitter @EmmanuelNataf
Transcript of Interview with Emmanuel Nataf
Joanna: Hi, everyone. I'm Joanna Penn from thecreativepenn.com. And today, I'm here with Emmanuel Nataf. Hi, Emmanuel.
Emmanuel: Hey, Joanna, how are you doing?
Joanna: I'm good. It's great to have you on the show. Just a little introduction.
Emmanuel is the co-founder and CEO of Reedsy, a marketplace that connects authors and professional freelancers, as well as a street photographer for fun. He's also a millennial and invested in cryptocurrency.
Now, the reason I invited Emmanuel on, is it's 10 years since the iPhone and the Kindle came on the market. So today, we're looking into the future about what will affect authors in the next 10 years to 2027.
I got talking to Emmanuel over drinks one evening and discovered all this interesting stuff about him. So that's why he's on the show with me today.
But before we get into it, we've obviously had Ricardo on the show talking about what Reedsy is.
Tell us where are you from and why did you get into the publishing business as a tech startup?
Emmanuel: Thanks a lot for having me on this podcast. It's very cool to be here.
I'm from Paris. I was born and raised in Paris. Most of my studies in Paris as well in France. I met Ricardo while we were studying in a business school, studied a little bit in Toronto as well, so Canada.
I got into publishing because I just love cultural industries. And when I moved to Canada, I was like, “Okay, I'm not gonna bring all these books with me. I'm just gonna get a Kindle, you know, and get all my books on that.”
That was a very interesting experience for me. I didn't read that much, actually, before getting my Kindle. And it became an enabler for me. Certainly, I would just look into books and read a lot more than I used to. And I started to get into that world.
I loved cultural industries as you mentioned. I do a lot of street photography in my spare time. So whenever I'm not working at Reedsy, then I just go out and take pictures of people on the street. I shoot them, but I don't kill them.
I started to learn about that space and I realized how amazing self-publishing was as a concept, essentially, as a business model, the creative freedom that you were getting out of it. And I thought that was really amazing.
But at the same time, I was a bit like, “Okay, this is awesome. You can just push your book to the Kindle Store or any other store and get most of the royalties back.” I thought that was amazing.
But at the same time, most of the books that was self-published didn't feel that great. So that was just in 2013 or something like that when I first had the idea. And I was like, “How can we make that process better?”
The sort of people who were just going to create a WordPress blog, and certainly they look like professional journalists. How do we make that happen for people who want to publish books?
I realized that a lot of people who used to work in-house with publishing companies were available and working as freelancers. So started to interview some of them, trying to get an understanding of what they were looking for, how they would get clients, and everything.
I interviewed over 100 people, I think. And then positively felt it wasn't that hard maybe to match great professionals with authors who were looking to publish a high quality book. So that's how I got into the space.
Then I took a little bit of time before I put a team together, started the company with Ricardo, as you mentioned, who was on the podcast recently. And then we built an MVP. We raised a bit of money, and now we've helped produce about 3,500 books, which is kind of cool.
Joanna: It is cool. I love Reedsy. It's fantastic and having that vetted professional stuff.
But let's get into the topic of today, because you talk about the Kindle as a technical enabler for your reading. And I think that's the positive slant we want to bring today, is that technology as an enabler for things that people have been doing for ages.
Like photography is enabled by Instagram, the Kindle is enabled by reading.
I wanted to start with the blockchain, because you and I were talking about that one evening. And the Alliance of Independent Authors has recently launched blockchain for books initiative.
Now, it's so interesting because I've talked to a lot of people my age, I'm 42, and older. And people are confused about what blockchain is, whether it's the same as Bitcoin, what is cryptocurrency, and why the hell should authors be interested?
Let's start with explaining what is blockchain and why is it different to Bitcoin.
Emmanuel: Cool. People started to talk about Bitcoin roughly in 2009, because there's that random guy or a random group of people on the internet who posted a blog post on the forum and saying, “Hey, I created Bitcoin.”
If you actually google Satoshi Nakamoto on Google and you try to find like the first blog post, you're going to find it. And it's really funny because you see the origins of the whole concept, the whole project.
Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency. It's a token that will allow people to transact and store money, store value in a decentralized fashion. So that's kind of like an interesting open network, so decentralized network for the financial industry, basically.
Blockchain is more a concept, more the underlying technology, and Bitcoin is just an application of it. But there's tons of different cryptocurrencies that exist for different purposes.
The concept behind blockchain is that, instead of having a central organization that earns all the information about something, you're gonna have an open distributed database ledger that record those transactions in a very efficient way, in an irreversible way as well.
It's called a blockchain because you add different bits of a chain, one after the other. They have a mathematical relationship. So you can verify that something happened after something else essentially.
Joanna: Yeah, and I know everyone's going, “Okay, I still don't understand that.” I've been reading this over and over again in an attempt to try and understand it, but I think just taking up a level for people.
It's like the internet, like we don't have to understand the internet in order to use the internet, right? I don't need to know to know how to program.
Emmanuel: Yeah, totally.
Joanna: So that's kind of what I'm saying with blockchain. You don't need to understand the code or the technical side of things, right? I guess the question is, do you feel like this is what the internet was, I guess, back in the '80s when you were, I guess, just born or something?
Joanna: Yeah, whatever. The point where the internet started, it was very technical and only a certain number of people used it, but then it became something that kind of took over.
By 2027, how do you think the blockchain and cryptocurrencies will affect authors or will we be using them?
Emmanuel: I agree with that. Unless you want to start investing in that sphere and in cryptocurrencies, you probably don't need to go too much in depth and try to understand really what's going on.
But if you do, you should probably do some reading to try understand what's happening and the technical aspects of it. But essentially, we're making cryptography more mainstream in a way and useful for different purposes.
There's gonna be tons of different applications. Basically, there isn't a single industry that's not going to be disrupted by blockchain technology. So, anything you can think of, it's going to change. Right now we live in a very weird world.
So, as you said, we thought the internet would be a very decentralized technology, and it turned out not to be a decentralized technology. And in the end it's a few players controlling the internet.
Probably everyone who's listening to the show right now has a Facebook account and all their information is processed by Facebook and is sold by Facebook to third parties. So it's very weird.
And you look at the consequences, like the U.S. election potentially and you're like, “Well, this is sad,” like you look at hundreds of millions of Americans maybe who's still like ads that the Russians go to something like that.
That is possible because you have a centralized entity and it's very easy to then access everyone and advertise to everyone. And it's really funny that now Facebook is going to hire 10,000 people to remove misinformation by the end of 2018. But Facebook is just one example.
Authors obviously put their book available on the Kindle Store or any other store, and they give 30% of their royalties to Amazon.
Well, we could think that, in the future, there might be a decentralized Amazon where basically there's no fees, there's no commission. Maybe there's a tiny, tiny fee for operating transactions and running contracts basically through a platform.
But that world where you give 30% to Apple whenever you sell An app or 30% to the Amazon whenever you sell a book might disappear. And you can think of applications for that in literally every single industry.
Joanna: I think the key point here is that decentralization. Right now pretty much everyone listening is going to use Amazon KDP to sell most of their books to customers around the world. I've started selling direct through some things.
But PayPal, for example, paying by email in multiple currencies, PayPal owns that space.
Do you see that by 2027, we would mostly be doing transactions globally on the blockchain with decentralized payments directly to customers?
Or do you see companies like Amazon and PayPal creating applications on the blockchain, so we kind of still use them like that?
Emmanuel: I don't know whether Amazon is going to build a blockchain-based Amazon. Maybe, that'd be good for them actually.
But right now what you're seeing is the large organizations, the nonprofit essentially. They're building the infrastructure, and those platforms are going to allow people to transact.
It's never gonna be just you. There's always going to be some kind of platform that people are going to use and going to be the go-to platform to make that happen.
But it's just that platform, that intermediary will not charge you 30% every time you sell something. They're going to create an open source technology that anyone, if they want to, can change and build on top of their own version of the platform. So it's going to be really interesting.
You can imagine that in the future, instead of switching back to Facebook again, but like instead of having Zuckerberg waking up in the morning and saying the future is going to be like this and pull this thing up at Facebook, linking to like that.
Maybe there's a bunch of developers based, wherever, in Estonia, or in Asia or wherever you want on the planet, that are going to think, “Okay, so that's good, does that right now. How about we change this bit or that bit and we're going to build our own version of Facebook and maybe adoption will take off and more people will use it.”
So you have like an infinite number of Facebooks basically that could exist in the future, same for Amazon. But hopefully, there will be kind of an interesting platform to make that happen to start with.
Joanna: It's so funny because I was away somewhere and someone said sci-fi authors have really old websites, because they built them first, like many of them built them back in the day before WordPress, for example. It's almost like when you build something now, you've got the benefits of everything.
Jeff Bezos said, and I think it was 2015, Amazon will be disrupted. And I was thinking, when you build a massive system or a particular technical platform to actually upgrade that, is a lot harder than building something from scratch on a new platform.
You're more likely to see another wave of disruptive technologies.
Emmanuel: One of the biggest challenges to disrupt Amazon essentially is that Amazon doesn't just sell digital products. If you're selling a digital product to someone, then it's fairly straightforward.
When the file has been downloaded, you know when the file has been read. You have lots of information about how the people used that digital file that you were selling.
If you wanna send this…sorry, it's a Reedsy book, then you need like a proof that the person who actually bought it received it. So you need the supply chain, the infrastructure underneath to allow you to verify that someone actually got the book in the end.
You can see it very easily how some people are going to disrupt some aspects of it. Amazon sells sell e-books. That feels like something that can be disrupted, not fairly easily, but that feels really doable.
Same for any digital product, essentially. But this liner where they started making their own TV shows and their own movies and everything.
In the end, you're going to go to Amazon maybe because they have interesting content. But for physical products, it's a different story because there's physical activity that's involved. So go disrupt that, it's going to be interesting.
Joanna: And with physical products as well, thinking about a book. Actually, the technology for printing books won't be disrupted by 3D printing, because that's more for shapes and things, not for pages with printed text on. So it is quite interesting that that older technology will probably remain. I appreciate that.
The other thing I wanted to ask about on the contract side, which is something the Alliance of Independent Authors is talking about, is that you could do much easier contracts around foreign rights. You could do micro payments.
For example, I can have a micro payment. Whenever one digital book is sold, X percent goes to me, X percent goes to the editor, X percent goes to Reedsy, if you did the connections, so that micro payments.
Given what's happening in India with micro payments and digital currency, is that a big shift, do you think?
Emmanuel: Yeah. It's really interesting. As we said earlier, Bitcoin is one application of the blockchain technology.
But a few years ago, there's something else that emerged called Ethereum, which is built on a blockchain, built to create decentralized applications, essentially. They call them dapps; decentralized applications.
And with that, you're able to create smart contracts, which are basically bits of code that developers submit and are executed by a distributed network of computers, essentially. And with that, we should be able to do what you just described.
It's really interesting because it's not a new idea, the idea of having multiple people sharing royalties by the execution of the contract in a completely automated fashion.
There was that startup, I think, called Net Minds, and there's been quite a few actually. They're dead now, but it doesn't really matter.
That idea that you could have contracts that will be automatically executed to pay different artists, different creatives is now a new idea, but like certainly we have the technology to make that happen. It's gonna be extremely interesting.
Micro payments, maybe we can now pay you for every page you read, we can send you money. It's gonna be quite interesting. There's going to be new business models, essentially.
That's why I flipped it around just a second ago, because in the future, maybe you don't get paid when people read the page but you make money off people who don't finish your book. You can pay people to read your book, and all the people who don't finish it, you know, they obviously…you keep the money. And if they do finish it, then you send it back, essentially.
Joanna: Oh, interesting. Well, and this is the thing, because I think the big shift in cryptocurrencies is even though most of us are using not real money. I mean, we are not going around doing most of our payments and receipts with actual money.
People still get confused about cryptocurrencies, it's just the word makes it difficult. When you talk about payments, people are still thinking like physical transfers and stuff.
Here we should just say to everyone there isn't actually anything that authors can do right now to take advantage of this, is there? It's more like this is happening, just be aware of it.
Is there anything else you would advise people?
Emmanuel: Yeah. And the reason why no one can do anything with it is that the technologies are not ready to be used at scale, essentially.
A technology like Bitcoin can process something like eight transactions a second, when the company like Visa or MasterCard can do like a thousand transactions a second. So, obviously, all these technologies are going to evolve.
They'll have roadmaps with significant changes to the technology and they're going to test things and they're going to fail. Essentially, all those technologies are like very early stage companies right now, things you would invest in when there's like five employees. So, things you don't necessarily want to trust actually.
For authors, right now they don't have to panic because there's nothing they can really do with it. We can just think and be inspired.
Joanna: Yeah, exactly, and that's kind of what we're doing. We're sort of thinking 2027, what are some of the exciting things. And this is exciting because it can give us more of a percentage of sale. It can give us micro payments, which will enable us to reach these other countries.
Emmanuel: There's a website called Steemit, so Steem, E-E-M and it, I-T.com. And it's really interesting because it's kind of a Reddit. It's very similar to Reddit, but it's built on the blockchain, essentially.
There's three or four different types of currency basically. You can buy Steem dollar and you can reward people who are actually writing interesting content. And people who write content are rewarded as well with coins that they can use. And there's different types of coins. It's interesting.
There's something called Steem Power that gives you more if you're already on the platform. It's super interesting to see that still today you go on the platform, you give all your information, you publish high-quality content, and in the end, the company that's really become successful out of it is the company that created that platform.
It's Facebook. It's Google. It's whoever. If you publish like a great post on Facebook, you might get likes. Okay. And if you advertised a product behind it, maybe you'll sell something. But in the end, you're a user of the platform and you're not really rewarded for being a user.
In the future, with tokens, the value of your tokens, whatever the currency is, whatever the platform is, the value might increase as the number of people who joined that platform increases. So certainly, you're not just a user and you're just like kind of like an animal that big companies use for advertising. You actually have some kind of ownership in the product. It's very, very different.
Joanna: Oh, goodness, we've got so many other things to cover. So let's move on, because one of the things that is really happening already is artificial intelligence and machine learning.
AIs have been writing nonfiction articles and sports journalism and technical journalism for a couple of years now, I think and recently have started writing not very good fiction. But one AI got into the finals of a Japanese literature competition.
And this Halloween, as we talk in 2017, MIT had a horror bot that was putting out horror stuff. What was interesting is somebody emailed me or it was on Twitter or something, and said, “This is high school quality work,” with the assumption that this wasn't very good.
I was like, “If this is high school quality work, then this is a very good AI,” because that's pretty amazing if they're already that developed. I'm looking forward because, in 2027, I fully intend to be using as much AI as possible, like a centaur.
In chess they have AI centaurs who work with the chess master and beat the AI alone or a human alone. So I'm really excited. But many people are very scared, and there's these kind of scary articles like, “You will be out of a job, writers, because of AI.”
What are your feelings around AI and how we will work with them?
Emmanuel: I think one of the best ways of getting an understanding of what AI can do today is to watch that video. I can probably find the name of it. They had it featured at Barbican Museum in in London.
A few months ago, there was an entire exhibition about sci-fi. They were talking about the first sci-fi in movies and everything. At the end of the exhibition, there was a short clip. And one of the main actors in that short clip is the main actor in the TV show “Silicon Valley.”
The script was something that had been compiled by AI. And it's really funny because it feels like it makes sense, like the tone, everything. It feels like there's something happening, but the more you listen, the more you realize that it makes no sense.
It's really interesting because it gives you an idea of, you know, what AI can do today. I'll try to give you the link afterwards to your listeners.
Joanna: We'll put it in the show notes.
Emmanuel: Should people be scared of AI? AI today is nothing really scary today, because essentially, as you just described it actually, with the MIT researchers that created horror stories based on Reddit posts, hundreds of thousands of Reddit posts.
Essentially, they're doing that based on historical data. It's an old DAI we have today. It's mostly scripted AI. So it's like you're playing a video game and you have a sense of these characters and they have the script and they're gonna move around. It feels like they're doing their thing. But, in fact, it's mostly scripted.
And we're doing that because it allows us to control the outcome. If suddenly we play a video game or we are in some kind of experience where we can't control the outcome, then you don't know what people should be looking at, you don't know what people should be doing, and you can be worried about the consequences as well.
We started doing that scripted AI, simply because it's simpler for us to understand and also because we didn't really have the technology to do any better. But when you think about it, we built the world where you're going to have tons of people saying, “Oh, this is an aubergine and this is not an aubergine.” Teaching a machine what an aubergine looks like and what aubergine doesn't look like.
It's kind of like the state of the AI right now. We're able to do slightly more sophisticated things, so that if they need, for instance, the online learning platform for their sales team, instead of having the salesperson type of response fully, they have some kind of AI, machine learning system that allows them to pre-composed messages.
So the customer support person doesn't have to write a full message. And the way it's pre-composed, they make sure that they know that that message is going to convert better than the other one. So they have a pre-composed message that's supposed to convert well.
And then the customers or a person can add the information that's required for that specific customer. So that's the kind of things that we're able to do right now with it. But it's not like the machine that comes out of nowhere and learns and does their own thing.
Joanna: In 2027, in 10 years' time, the state of machine learning that Google was doing or Alphabet is doing right now, there's been some big leaps with machine learning.
What do you think, in 2027, the AIs will be like?
Emmanuel: Yeah. So we're going from scripted AI to an AI that can learn, meaning that it doesn't need historical data, as you described it, like AlphaGo Zero does. It didn't need like millions of games of information to know how to play. It would just play, and then lose or win.
And then because it's a computer, it can play billions of games super quickly, and as a result become really good. So that's, I think, one of the biggest differences.
But it's still very early, because we're doing that with a game. Okay, GUI is a complicated game, much more complicated than chess or like there's many more outcomes, you know, possible.
But still, we're not talking about doing anything extremely sophisticated right now. And it's interesting. There's that video game company called Unity. They just have a basic game with a ball that's going on the platform and the machine is learning how to hold the ball straight on that platform. And it takes just 30 seconds for the game to learn how to do that, which is kind of cool. But it's kind of the level at which we are right now in terms of actually AI that learns.
Joanna: Yeah, I'm still excited. I'm really looking forward to my AI assistant.
One thing that is around the learning is translation and voice search. Voice search has gone mainstream in the last year with the Echo and the Google home things and Siri and Cortana and all that. People are using their voice for search.
And real-time translation is happening with Skype. Kickstarter has a whole load of what look like real-time translation. Now, obviously, you're French. I mean, you understand the translation thing a lot more than me because I'm British and obviously, British people are terrible at languages.
What do you think about the translation possibilities in the next 10 years for reading in other languages?
Emmanuel: Yeah. It's interesting you asked me this question, because when I was raising money for Reedsy, one investor who was actually not interested in investing in Reedsy, one morning wakes up and says. “Hey, do you have the tool that my dad can use so he can read that book that's in English, but he doesn't read English, he only reads Spanish?”
I'm like, “No, dude I don't have that tool. It doesn't exist.” Either he finds a translation or he reads it in English, anyway.
I thought that was quite interesting because, obviously, right now there's no on-demand translation service that does an amazing job or it works for like basic things, like that company called Unbabel. I don't know if you've heard about it.
They have a machine that does the basic translating, so just voice recognition and then translates word by word. And then they have a community of human beings who are actually going to edit that translation.
So you can have people watching the conference on the internet and then maybe there's going to be a slight delay, but we're going to be able to translate extremely quickly what the person on stage actually said. And that's kind of interesting. It's kind of a mix of working with humans and actually working with the machine.
Google, I think they recently like revamped the translation service for Chinese. But I know it took them years to actually go from that very basic system to something slightly more sophisticated. And still, I think the technology they have is insanely slow compared to the previous one.
I mean, it gives better translation, much better translation, but it's insanely slow. I know they had to add transitions and stuff so people don't realize that there's actually a lot of processing going on to it to actually translate the sentence. So we're going like great progress.
I wish I spoke Chinese to be able to see what Google did with Google Translate, but it's a fairly recent change, and, yeah, it's getting super interesting. But translation for the literary world, like translate basic articles, technical stuff, it's been out there for a while.
But to translate novels, we're going to need something really, really smart because translating is rewriting, it's not just translating.
Joanna: Yeah, which is why I see it as it will be very possible for nonfiction. There are probably ways we could do nonfiction right now. There are tools you can run novels over to say how the level of the language, and there's obviously a big difference between books that are aimed at a reading in age of 14, which apparently is the average reading age in America versus a literary fiction novel that wins prizes. Those are very different languages.
I can see it moving on that scale, so, nonfiction first. As you say, you can pretty much translate websites and articles right now, which are nonfiction.
Emmanuel: Yeah, yeah, totally.
Joanna: Do you see that transition?
Emmanuel: Yeah. I can remember when I saw a video of scientists in the '50s, during the Cold War, you wanted to know what the Russians were saying and their mind like a machine that would translate very fast from Russian into English.
So they started developing that machine that would actually translate things and it was back in the '50s. So we've been able to translate things almost on demand very well.
But doing something more literary, we need to understand the political, historical, cultural context, and everything. We're still a bit far from it. But people were already talking about in the '50s or maybe even before and I'm not aware of it, so maybe it takes a bit longer than what we would expect.
Joanna: This is the problem with a 10-year timeline, right? I haven't got the dates written down. But the sequencing of our human genome, that project was meant to take however many years, like a long, long, long time. And then Craig Venter went and did it a lot faster than expected.
And now the cost is a lot lower, and it's a lot faster, and they can do it in no time at all, and that gets quicker all the time. But that technology was almost like a step change.
It was like yesterday it was going to take another 20 years, and then today it only took 2 years. So with 10 years, it's really kind of hard to see what would have a step change, and it feels like the blockchain will be a step change, it would literary just because it's happening.
All the banks are looking at blockchain, right, because they know they're gonna be disintermediated or whatever the word is.
Emmanuel: So the banks, it's really funny because they set up incubators and funds to invest and for startups. And then the CEO wakes up and says, “You know, this is all bullshit.” And then you have a headline in every newspaper. It's really funny.
Joanna: Yeah, I think they're trying to keep it down from the mainstream, while at the background, they're building their own stuff on the blockchain.
Emmanuel: Yeah, they're often building like private applications.
Emmanuel: The opposite of the whole concept of blockchain, actually, but also maybe to solve some of the scalability issues that some of these technologies have.
Joanna: I can see a lot of people who aren't comfortable with it using their established bank blockchain. They'll be like, “Oh, it's just a new technology my bank is doing, like the mobile app.” You know, that's what it is.
And other people will use it in a different way. Let's move on to augmented reality and virtual reality, because I actually wrote an article about the VR bookstore back in March 2015.
As usual, I'm always very optimistic about timeline. And we're still nowhere near that, and it's not gone mainstream. AR, when people hold up a phone and can see things. AR translation, you can hold up your app over a sign in Japan and it will tell you the sign in English. So that's the kind of augmented reality.
What do you think of AR and VR? What do you reckon is gonna happen there?
Emmanuel: Yeah, it's interesting. I went to an event a few months ago about AR and VR. And there was one of the founders of a company called Bluepal. They create a bunch of AR and VR technologies.
And what the guy did is like he took his phone out of his pocket and he pointed it at someone in the room. And he had an idea that that person was I wouldn't say famous but a guy would like get some following on the internet, someone you would want to get information about.
And he pointed at that person, and then the phone detected who it was and started to give information about that very person. And they already have a significant database of like faces and they're able to do face recognition super-fast, and then get interesting results about that person.
The reaction of the audience when he did that was really weird, because most people are like, “Okay, I'm not sure I want people to be able, you know, point their phone at me.”
Joanna: No, that was a bad example.
Emmanuel: So, yeah. But what I find interesting is like the application of VR for the real world, not just VR for the sake of yeah, but VR for applications in the real world.
So for instance, I saw that video recently, you know, for healthcare. So right now you have doctors in the world, but not necessarily the same access to health care in other parts of the world.
You can think that with VR, we're gonna be able to do surgery remotely. Let's say you just have the right tools, the right machine somewhere on the planet, you just need a doctor based, wherever, in London, Paris, San Francisco, wherever. And they can like, you know, do surgery on someone who is on the other side of the planet.
It's just needs a right internet connection, essentially. And also just to train surgeons, for instance. There's stuff, you know, that you don't do surgery on very often. So how do you train doctors? Well, you can have those new tools.
We're gonna need new devices to experience all those new things. But you can have those new tools that you have some feedback whenever you hit something and then you know whether you can keep going or not. That's gonna be really interesting.
There's a company called Glitchers. I don't know if you saw, they have an app that was downloaded like maybe two million times, and that helped advance dementia research, essentially.
So they meet people in a special environment and they look at how they react. Since it's a very immersive experience, they're able to get information about who has dementia, who doesn't, essentially. It's the kind of applications that I find extremely interesting.
I haven't seen that to say like things are this interesting in the book space, essentially, but hopefully, that will come. But that often comes with interesting devices, because right now if everybody has to put their phone in front of the face or whatever, headsets, I'm not sure that VR is gonna be that interesting. Right now there's probably more interesting applications for AR in general than VR, essentially.
Joanna: I see the VR thing as more like this online summits at the moment, where or online training courses like Reedsy have, where you decide I'm going to sit down right now and I'm going to go and do this course online.
I see myself doing a podcast in VR. We would be in an environment instead of Skype that people could actually come and see it live, or instead of doing summits on a flat screen, you would be able to do it and teach.
I see the application is more around teaching and training and learning than reading a book necessarily. And like you said, the medical technology people learning how to operate. And I've seen videos of, you know, electronic stuff where people wear an AR visor. And they can actually see it's telling them where to put the thing.
The training aspect, I think, is interesting. And also the marketing, because I could walk around London recording where I am, and then if you were in London, you could bring up your AR thing and follow me around virtually.
Emmanuel: Yeah, there's also really interesting applications for designers, because right now you're moving a model on a 2D screen when you could actually be moving around your object and changing it as you move around, which is just a totally different experience.
Joanna: I think this is really important because I see authors need to think about applications for their books that go beyond the book.
That's almost like a gaming experience or a solve this murder mystery, you actually get to go into and find the objects and stuff.
Emmanuel: Yeah, it's a very interesting change, instead of us building weird interfaces to manipulate things, we're actually going to manipulate the end product directly. It's a bit like on the phone. You know when Apple introduced that natural scrolling, you would be moving the content instead of moving the page. It changed the way people scroll on their page. And it felt very weird to people.
Joanna: Oh, goodness, there's still so much we can talk about, and I know we're pretty much out of time. The thing that I think is more urgent in terms of the thing that will probably happen soon or is happening is the…by 2025, it's expected that eight billion people will be on the internet in the Leapfrog countries, so sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, where they're not gonna have laptops or desktops. They're going straight to mobile economies with digital currency.
I'm excited about that, because these are where our customers can be right now. Also more customers, the middle class is in India or Nigeria. There are lots of countries in the world who have not gone digital in terms of their reading.
Are you thinking about that? Are you excited about global and digital? Do you think that's gonna happen sooner?
Emmanuel: Sooner? I don't know. Eight billion people on the internet? What do we have right now two or three…three?
Joanna: Yeah, that's three or four.
Emmanuel: In the next eight years, more than five billion, more on the internet, I don't know. It sounds reasonable.
But in terms of opportunities, it's obviously more customers. And maybe with like things like blockchain, we can have like a more global competitive landscape, because right now you do have a Chinese market and the Russian market and a kind of a more western market, but they don't really work with each other that much.
When you go to China, you're on your computer and you're like, “What can I do really them used to be doing?” It's a very weird feeling. Even though it's the internet, it's still not that decentralized and not everybody's got access to everything. So it's gonna be not just more customers but a lot more competition, which is interesting.
Joanna: On the competition aspect because, of course, Reedsy is connecting writers with professionals, and I write nonfiction for authors, and I've been telling writers this.
If you write fiction, you should also be writing nonfiction about how you write fiction, because the number of new writers coming online.
Emmanuel: It's huge.
Joanna: …exponential. And the self-help environment is only getting bigger, right, with self-driving cars, the end of jobs, aging boomers. All these things that we haven't even talked about will bring more people into the writing environment.
Emmanuel: And above all, people will have a lot more time.
Joanna: Exactly, more time, and they want to create.
Emmanuel: Because right now most people have a job. But in the future, people might not need a job. So we'll find out. I have a friend of mine who was saying, you know, in Japan they started to educate the population to the idea that they might not have a job…like the kids might not have a job in the future, and that's fine.
Emmanuel: I don't know whether it's going to happen or whether it's going to be totally different. But we can think that maybe in the future people won't have a job and maybe the unemployment rate will be like totally irrelevant because everybody won't be making money without necessary having to work. So then we have to do something else. What do we do?
Joanna: Yeah, exactly. Universal Credit and these sort of big shifts are probably the things that will shape the next 10 years that are coming. But then just from your perspective as someone who is a lot younger than me, and many people listening hear the end of jobs or people won't have a job and they are very scared.
As someone who is much more happy with a lot of this technology, what are you excited about? Are you optimistic about the next 10 years?
Emmanuel: Yeah. I'm happy and not happy. I don't have a Facebook account. So I'm happy and totally aware of like all the bad things that comes with technology. And for me, Facebook is one of the worst things on the internet, but I still love technology.
I'm the guy who's going to start an account for the next social network the day it's out, and then maybe if I see that there's something wrong with it, I'll just stop. So we're in the situation where we're all kind of our worst enemy and we can destroy ourselves if we want to.
Joanna: But no, no, you could have been positive.
What do you see for the next 10 years of Reedsy, for example? You've got a company, what do you see coming?
Emmanuel: Yeah, so I'm sorry, I'm not responding, but I never look at anything like from a 10 years perspective. I mean like I like to do, that's kind of an exercise.
But for the company itself, I look at it what's gonna happen in 18 months max. And when you raise money from investors, you raise money for 18 months most of the time. So you don't want to be raising every year, but every year and a half, you go out and raise money. Not everyone. We're not doing that right now at Reedsy, but a lot of startups actually do that.
So I don't really look at it over like a 10-year period but more a couple of years. And right now we have a lot of things to grow. And we are quite focused on a problem of trying to maybe release a new product for that. So it's kind of like our current focus.
But what I'll be or what Reedsy will be in 10 years, I have no idea, and I'm fine with that. I'm totally fine with that. The future is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It's whatever you want to be. So if we decided to destroy ourselves, we'll destroy ourselves. So if we decided to colonize, to go on Mars and just live there, then we'll make that happen.
But in the end, it's not that's interesting. We got cows, amazing technology, and then we started crushing ourselves into whatever, then we added seat belts, and then we added airbags, and then we added traffic lights. So we keep going, we keep adding more stuff and adding more complexity to our lives. But in the end, it's not necessarily what matters. So it's kind of like technology can be an enabler, but it's not the ultimate goal, essentially.
Joanna: And that's good. That kind of circles back, because we started off talking about technology as an enabler, and that's basically what we should be doing going forward, right? As authors and entrepreneurs, we will use technology as an enabler and move forward.
Joanna: That's awesome. So tell people where they can find you and Reedsy online.
Emmanuel: Yeah. So as I said, I'm not on Facebook, but you can find me on Twitter, so Emmanuel Nataf, and if you want to email me, I'm firstname.lastname@example.org. So I'm guessing it will be someone in the notes.
Joanna: Fantastic. Well, thank you so much for your time, Emmanuel. That was great.
Emmanuel: Thanks very much.