Hello, Anikibo

by Steve Watson in February 2013
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Anikibo launched last week as “the first peer-to-peer online marketplace specifically for independent publishers making, creating and publishing beautiful physical magazines, zines & comics”.

It was started by Berlin-based Brit Deborah Causton, a print lover and sometime magazine maker who has been working in tech for most of the last 13 years. She first had the idea for an independent publishing marketplace way back in 2001, but it wasn’t until two years ago that she finally decided to give it a go, fitting the build of Anikibo around her full-time job, before finally quitting the day job to focus solely on Anikibo.

So what made her want to get involved with the cash-strapped world of independent publishing? And where does she see Anikibo in the future? I gave her a call to find out.

In your own words, what is Anikibo?
It’s a marketplace for peer-to-peer independent publishing sales. In its current form it just facilitates the ability for people to have a one-process checkout – at the moment you have to go and buy individually from each individual magazine and it’s a bit of a pain in the ass; it’s difficult to keep track of magazines, what’s launched, when it’s launched…

I’d go to New York and find these cool bookshops with these great zines you just can’t find anywhere else, because if you Google ‘independent magazines’ it’s not exactly a very competitive keyword. I think you’re placed number one at the moment! I thought, I want to be able to find these cool little comics or zines or magazines and have the convenience of having them shipped to my house.

What has the response been like from publishers?
It’s been really good. I somewhat came out of nowhere – I’ve got my little ties in independent magazines, but I’m not a Jeremy Leslie organising big events and speaking at conferences! I’m hearing back from a few magazines every day now, so I still have to contact them all one by one and introduce myself, but they’re quite excited by the possibilities of the site if we can get it up and running and functioning as a proper marketplace.

One of the problems I hear from publishers is that actually they don’t want to sell their magazines across lots of different places, picking up bits of money here and there. They want to just sell from their own site. 
Me and my friend made this magazine called Mine. We were going to screen print copies by hand, fold them by hand and pack them into plastic bags. It was going to be a real labour of love. We were wondering what we could sell them for, so we went into a few shops and they said, ‘Yeah we’ll sell it but we’ll take 60% or 70% of the price.’ That’s after we’ve broken our backs leaning over a screen printing table, probably inhaling all sorts of noxious gases, and they want to take 70%!

That was actually one of the motivations for me to finish the site and get it up there, because if this is a good product people will buy it. That’s why I want to keep it quite curated, so that we’re only putting up things that people will want to buy. And because we’re only taking 20% it’s a much more viable way of selling, especially if you’re one of the little guys.

There’s no contract saying that publishers can only sell with me, and they can list as many magazines as they want. So they can use it as just a marketing platform if they want – I just want to try to get them all together because I think a lot of people are unaware of this industry. They don’t know about all the publications that are being created on a daily basis, and if you don’t know about it you’re not even going to try to Google it. So if I can help people to become aware of this whole sphere because there’s a single website where you can look at and explore all this stuff, I think that’s a good thing.

For publishers reading this, what makes for an Anikibo magazine? What will get them into your curated selection?
You’ve just got to see someone has loved making the magazine. There’s something about having done something for a long time and not necessarily for financial gain.

And finally, where do you see Anikibo in five years?
I have so many ideas about what it can be. I want to try to elevate the whole print market, so selling screen prints and things like that. We’re all very excited about our iPads and our phones and our digital delivery TVs, but there’s something special about a tactile object – it’s like people still wanting to buy vinyl. I don’t actually own a record player but I still buy vinyl and I still keep it all perfect in my apartment. That’s the same with print. I treasure a print thing in a way that I don’t treasure something that’s on my iPad, because we do have this desire to collect things and I don’t think we’ll ever totally lose that.

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