Future headsNikola Richter und Jakob Jochmann © Klaas Posselt Nikola Richter und Jakob Jochmann © Klaas Posselt

Nikola Richter and Jakob Jochmann

“Maybe the award expresses the jury’s desire to enter into such partnerships more often and more permanently.”

Nikola Richter and Jakob Jochmann are the winners of Digivis Contest, which is endowed with a total of 30,000 Euro. The Senate Department for Economy, Energy and Public Enterprises/Project Future launched the contest “Digivis – Making digital content visible” in cooperation with the German Publishers and Booksellers Association and the regional association of Berlin/Brandenburg. The aim of the contest is to find concepts that can increase the visibility of the digital products or applications offered by the creative industry, and in particular the book industry.

Book Vault, the innovative idea developed by Nikola Richter and Jakob Jochmann, is an application that allows publishers to make e-books readable for users on the users’ own devices using a portable wireless server. This can be particularly useful for book presentations at book fairs for example.

You are both winners of “Digivis contests” – congratulations! What does the contest mean to you?

Nikola Richter: It is a huge acknowledgement, in particular for Jakob’s technology, and it shows that innovative ideas reach the book industry only through smart partnerships. Maybe the award expresses the jury’s desire to enter into such partnerships more often and more permanently, as otherwise, the industry will stagnate at some point.

Jakob Jochmann: The acknowledgement means a lot to me. In the book industry, it has been quite frustrating at times to initiate new developments. Who knows what would have happened if I hadn’t met such great partners like mikrotext.

Book Vault is a joint project of your publishing houses mikrotext and pixelcraft innovations – how did this cooperation start?

Richter: I’ve known Jakob Jochmann for some years now. Already in 2016, we used the e-book cloud for about 80 e-books from participating publishers and institutions on the occasion of the Electric Book Fair’s e-book festival. It was very exciting to further develop and try out this idea. The award shows that both local and mobile platforms still have a huge potential. This applies not only to publishers, but also to events, conferences, trade fairs or bookshops. Jakob is extremely quick and creative, and our cooperation is fun. If we had a larger donor, I’m sure we would be able to make the cloud marketable.

Jochmann: Nikola was one of the most open-minded people in the industry who accepted my affinity for technological avant-garde experiments. When I developed an idea for transmitting digital books to smartphones and told her about it, she immediately recognised the potential for events and trade fairs for her own work. So we started a successful test run.

Your project received the award for a particular innovation – transmission of digital content to mobile terminal devices using a mobile wireless server. Can you explain this in more detail?

Jochmann: The original question was how we can make the experience of browsing through a bookshop also accessible for digital contents. My aim was that people can sit in an enclosed space, test read a book and buy it right away if they like it. The advantage is that the bookshop won’t need to buy any devices, as most customers will have their own readers with them on their smartphone. We will provide the local infrastructure – similar to logging in to a Wi-Fi network at a café or on the train. After login, we offer a library instead of an internet connection, where the user can browse as much as they want.

What are the benefits for the book industry?

Richter: For publishing houses and authors, the cloud is like a safe and easy-to-use plug-and-play shop window with the size of two chocolate bars. Everyone who is near the transmitting station may log on with their smartphone and read the contents, but not download them.

Jochmann: You create some kind of locality for digital content, opening up entirely new ways for digital books even beyond the features of physical books. However, the interesting experiences require partly new licensing models – something where we still have problems with.

Where do you see books, bookshops and libraries in ten years from now?

Richter: The digitalisation of libraries has long since taken place, for example in the field of online lending. This will certainly develop further. However, books will survive. The question is what role the classic reading activity will play in the future and whether it hasn’t been replaced partly by serial, intermittent reading in social media streams. In my publishing company mikrotext, I publish many texts that are adapted to such reading behaviour, as they were written in exactly that way. They include short novellas, short stories or essays.

Jochmann: Various market developments and social needs are taking effect. In general, books will continue to be books. However, I doubt that bookshops and libraries will use them equally.

What are your wishes for the publishing and creative industry for the near future? Curious serenity?

Not only courage for innovations, but also the necessary patience to develop them further. And the open-mindedness to start innovative partnerships. 

What book is currently on your bedside table?  

Richter: Meanwhile, I read a lot on my smartphone/e-reader, also when I’m in bed – in night mode. I am currently reading Etgar Keret’s “Suddenly, a Knock on the Door“.

Jochmann: I am currently reading in “Building PowerPoint Templates” by Echo Swinford & Julie Terberg in order to coordinate our presentation services with my team. As for my private life, I’ve wanted to read “Dragon's Egg” by Robert L. Forward for a long time now.

Do you both live in Berlin? If yes, what do you love about the city – or what makes you come back here again and again? 

Richter: I like Berlin most when I haven’t been here for a longer time. Because, even if I am often annoyed by the city because of aggression on the streets or clearance sales, or displacement of independent subcultural places, it is also a very green, diverse and liveable city. And, we all have to make sure that it remains that way.

Jochmann: I’ve been living in Mainz for some months now. My wife is a scientist and I am lucky enough to be an entrepreneur, which means that we can choose our centre of life according to our respective work situation. With its great networks of exciting people and a suitable university, Berlin is a future option for both of us. For the time being, I take the train to get there to establish contacts.

Last but not least: Can you complete the following sentence: “Berlin is…”

Richter: … my home since 1999 and my literary centre of life.

Jochmann: … the place quite a lot of cool people make me come back to again and again.