Special report: Why the sharing economy will change business learning

In a special report for dialoguereview.com, business books entrepreneur Marcelino Elosua forecasts how the sharing economy will transform the industry

The advent of digital personal technologies, such as smartphones, tablets and smart watches has led to a boom in reading and writing. We read and write more than ever before. But this reading and writing differs in a fundamental respect from the linear way in which we might read a novel, or digest a traditional business book. It is collaborative. We debate, discuss and collaborate in real-time through the written word, via instant messaging and social media.

The collaborative economy has already transformed the transportation sector (through technologies like Uber) and the accommodation industry (through AirBnB). Leaders and managers in the world of business education must now prepare for it to change their sector forever, too. As the way we read becomes collaborative, so too will the way we learn. Here are five reasons why the learning sector will be disrupted by the collaborative economy:

• Change is the new normal New technologies are applied immediately, virally and globally and create new ways of communicating, making social connections and spreading knowledge arise. Resistance to change is increasingly weaker and delays in implementation ever shorter.

Hierarchies are weaker Pronouncements from senior figures are being replaced by communication among equals. Feedback from peers has become more valued than that from traditional leaders.

Collaborative content is ‘never wrong for long’ The banes of the traditional editor – the typographical or factual error – are now accepted, and corrected, in record time. Well thought out, rigorously quality-controlled content is being replaced to some degree by spontaneous communication. This has many errors, but they are rapidly detected and resolved thanks to the large amount of crowdsourced ‘proofreaders’ – actual users who are keen to tell content providers where and when they have made a mistake. Wikipedia is proofread and fact-checked by its millions of readers.

The cost of collaborative content is hidden Many communications are made collaboratively with a lot of apparently free content. Yet much of this content has an important commercial imperative – it helps build the brand and improve the image of, or trust in, its provider.

Traditional qualifications have less value The vital importance that was given in the past to university degrees, as a way of proving one’s mastery of a discipline or topic, has weakened in favour of the value of experience, capacity to react creatively, to adapt to change and to overcome new challenges. All these skills can be developed through collaborative learning.

Bearing in mind these points, the key questions we need to answer are: in what form should learning take place in organizations? How should education, formal training and informal learning be combined and in which contexts should each be used? And what is the role of new technologies in learning, particularly in informal learning?

The focus on social and workplace learning is not radically new. It was back in 1971 that Canadian educator and researcher Allen Tough asserted that “around 70% of all successful learning plans sprang from the learner himself”. The book The Career Architect Development Planner by Bob Eichinger and Michael Lomardo introduces the 70:20:10 concept: lessons learned by successful and effective managers are roughly 70% from experience, 20% from people (mostly the boss), and 10% from courses and reading. This concept has been applied to the workplace in recent years by Charles Jennings, who has become one of the world’s leading experts on building and implementing 70:20:10 learning strategies.

In this article I will focus first on reading, then on learning and I will conclude with details of Bluebottlebiz, the world’s first collaborative learning platform that brings together high-quality management content, new tools for collaborative working and a professional network, around and through which content is created and repurposed.

1. Reading in the cloud, reader interactivity and specialized platforms

Most of the current ebooks are no more than printed books in digital form. As a result, many people overlook their significant potential. We should not compare digitalized print books with the digital books of the future. An analogy could be drawn with the first viewers of black and white silent films, who compared the experience of watching these programmes with going to live performances at the circus or theatre. They didn’t immediately foresee the advantages of film (the cost savings; the wide reach), nor the swift evolution of the technology that underpinned it which would soon lead to film in colour and with sound; to television programmes; and to the internet.

Nowadays, we still go to live shows, but their market share has diminished. Cirque du Soleil has succeeded, but this proves my point – it has thrived under a very different model. With epub3 we already have books with multiple links to other audiovisual resources, which is mistakenly described as interactivity. These links do not provide communication in both directions – reciprocity – which is the basic requirement of interactivity. However, to stay with the television analogy, we are already at the ‘colour and sound’ level in terms of the technology, and its evolution will continue.

Let’s start by highlighting the essential advantage that digital books have over print equivalents: copies do not need to be physically produced. A digital book can be made available immediately, in every country and via every digital channel, at a marginal production cost and a distribution cost of nil. My SlideShare presentation Publication of management content: trends and new author-publisher relationships covers in more detail what this means for authors, readers, bookstores and publishers.

When the sole distribution channel was physical bookstores, space was a limiting factor and the competitive advantage of one publisher over another was relative capacity and control of distribution. This led to publishing houses growing ever bigger in order to acquire large warehouses and finance extensive print-runs. The size of a title’s print run, its availability in stores, and its placement within these, could determine its success or failure.

Today, it is very easy to achieve presence in virtual bookstores for a print or digital title, and virtually all books have equal presence, equating to a cover image and basic information. Space is not of the essence. When millions of titles are available in every bookstore, the core scarce factor is not so much presence, but product differentiation – how a book makes itself visible to, and retains the attention of, readers. When the selling point is discoverability, the competitive advantage relates to digital marketing, understanding target readers and a writer’s ability to use social media. It is now specialist publishers, close cooperation with authors, identification of readers, targeted spend and precision marketing that have the edge over large corporations, high levels of financial investment and a ‘carpet bombing’ approach to marketing.

Another advantage of digital books is that it is easier to change the master file and to update a title almost automatically, for all distributors, at the click of a button. Audiovisual links can be included and may require more frequent updating. Some argue that fiction will not change in this way. I would like to point out that fiction only accounts for 20% of all book revenues. Most publications are non-fiction titles or textbooks, and of the ten most profitable publishing houses in the world, only two can be considered publishers of literature.

It’s also possible that, in future, even a novel might be revised by its author, or by its readers, or different endings might be released. Readers might become participants in shaping a novel. When technology permits innovation, creativity rises to the occasion. Ultimately, the clearest consequence of this, even if only for non-fiction, is that no one will want to buy and download books, not only because of the storage they take up, but because readers will always want the most up-to-date version, and the simplest solution is to read those books via a cloud website from any device, at any time and in any place.

Cloud reading brings a lot of other advantages: it’s cheaper for readers; more profitable for publishers; reduces book piracy since they are not downloadable; and facilitates contact between author/publisher and reader.

To these advantages we must add an extra benefit that current technology permits: multilateralism, which provides true interactivity. Multilateralism has already been adopted by Bluebottlebiz, the first website to have introduced it. A platform is bilateral when the essential relationship is between the platform and the individual users, each of whom can read a book and leave a review, publicly and for the whole website. It’s really multilateral if it allows interaction with other individual users or groups and enables content to be amended or rearranged, by comments or by reorganizing it.

At Bluebottlebiz, a reader can comment on an article, paragraph by paragraph, keeping comments private, sharing them with a closed or open group in their network, or making them completely public. The personalized version of every title is saved, which obviously impacts on storage. Choices for readers become more complex as each individual has the option of reading a book as the writer wrote it originally, or for example, in its fifth edition; or including the comments of a friend, teacher – or perhaps an author with a contrasting point of view. To give an example, former (Labour) UK prime minister Tony Blair’s autobiography might be livened up considerably if annotated by current (Conservative) prime minister David Cameron, not in a separate document but alongside Blair’s original text, paragraph by paragraph.

As well as searching for books by author, it will be possible to search for those who have commented on titles, and the publications on which they have commented, which may well lead to the discovery of new experts.

One of my more adventurous predictions is that reading in the cloud will be via specialized platforms. This is not simply because content is specialized, but because content is only one of the three pillars of a reading platform, the other two being tools and network. Each specialty will have its own customized tools, and social networks also tend to be specialized. An analogy can be made with shopping and the way in which large department stores have been overtaken by specialized retail establishments in specific areas, as a result of the latter’s product offerings, expert salespeople and unrivalled prices.

These reading platforms in the cloud may or may not be made available via subscription. It is a challenge to make individual subscription models profitable for publishers. People may take out a subscription to a reading platform, as they do at the gym, and then not use it very much (as with the gym), or force themselves to read more to get their money’s worth. But it is likely that the first subscribers prepared to pay a monthly fee will be avid readers – the heavy users – a scenario that doesn’t much appeal to publishers unless subscribers pay by number of books read. That might cause unbearable losses to the platform, as in the case of ebook subscription service Oyster, which shut down its service in January, or make subscribing prohibitively expensive.

Group subscriptions, however, could be attractive both to publishers and to companies, for example, subscribing to a reading platform providing management titles from many different publishers on behalf of employees, who would gain access to relevant content immediately, and benefit from any tools created by the platform to aid joint working and collaboration. The value comes not so much from heavy reading but from having comparable texts from different authors about a very specific subject that the user wants at their fingertips. It is used more for consultation than for reading. Plus you get the value of the networking and working collaboratively through specific tools which the platform itself provides. This makes it profitable both for readers and for publishers at the same time, it is no longer a win-lose game but a win-win proposition.

My view is that each area of interest will have a specialist reading platform, with its own tools and ways of financing its service. These will be able to aggregate reader data and offer tailored products as a result. A virtual bookstore can identify that a buyer has bought a book on a particular subject, but cannot tell whether it was for themselves, their grandmother or their daughter. By contrast, a reading platform in the cloud knows that the user, at this very moment, is reading about salmon fishing with live bait in Norway.

Obviously the sector will have to introduce self-regulatory measures and defend privacy strictly. But that, in itself, will lead to different tools for different types of readers. For example, with a school subscription, it would seem sensible for a teacher to know what her ten- year-old pupils are reading at school, but not acceptable, with a company subscription, for the head of HR to know that an employee is reading a book about setting up his own business or dealing with a difficult boss. On the contrary, if the reader is properly advised that they are being monitored, the platform can be used to certify that a certain compulsory reading in a compliance procedure has been performed.

Following on from the salmon fishing example, it is quite likely that, for individual subscribers, the subscription cost could be zero, either through one or several sponsor, big manufacturers or retailers, or because income could be generated via advertising or referrals from suppliers or consultants.

2. Moving from formal training to informal learning, to collaborative learning

Education can be described in a variety of ways but, when applied to the business world, there are four distinct categories of education, two for teaching and two for learning, which I will summarize below:

1)      Education

Defined by the state and associated with recognized qualifications, such as degrees or professional qualifications. Education can be supplied by public or private providers and taught face-to-face or via distance learning, and so on.

2)      Formal training

Defined by employers, generally according to seniority levels and roles. Participants may receive personal certificates and the skills gained may qualify them for promotion or pay rises.

3)      Informal learning

The skills and knowledge we learn at work, from daily experience, plus guidance and feedback from colleagues. This is conscious learning, both for the teacher and learner, but it is not formally structured. This represents 90% of valid workplace learning.

4)      Social learning

This is a less conscious form of learning and revolves around developing basic social skills such as communicating effectively with others, or dressing appropriately for the office. Neither ‘teacher’ nor learner may be consciously aware of the process.

I’m going to focus on the middle two forms (formal training and informal learning), which are best-suited to the workplace and, when implemented effectively, can positively influence an organization’s ability to adapt, grow and succeed. Until recently, formal training was the only educational activity really managed by the chief learning officers (CLO). While many CLOs have attempted to boost informal training and they indeed want to be seen as learning facilitators rather than rigid teaching officers, they have lacked an appropriate platform – such as Bluebottlebiz.

For the sake of simplicity, I’ll talk about formal training and informal learning, but I would also like to jump ahead to what I describe as collaborative learning. As explained in the introduction, approximately 10% of useful training comes from courses and reading, while 20% comes from other people (particularly bosses) and 70% from experience, which includes contact with colleagues and clients. These last two – people and experience, equating to 90% of valid learning – represent on-the-job/contextual training, or informal learning. Nevertheless, 99% of companies’ educational budgets are allocated to formal training, including investment in content and software (learning management systems or LMS)

Addressing this, Bluebottlebiz makes it possible to put resources into informal learning, providing tools for joint working, and social networks that heighten the knowledge transfer that happens in the context of everyday work. It works almost like a game. This informal learning, reinforced by tools that enable the sharing of knowledge created by team members themselves, whether they are team leaders or simply experts in a particular area, is what we call collaborative learning. It maintains the essence of informal learning but gives it a little structure and retains some formal elements.

First, let’s define more clearly the difference between formal training and informal learning. To use another analogy, formal training is like taking a scheduled bus service, which starts at a pre-defined place, ends at another, and runs at a set frequency. It can transport a lot of people from A to B at low cost and, if well planned, can be very effective, particularly for regular journeys and lots of users with the same needs and no time pressures. Informal learning can be likened to travelling in your own car, which provides a lot more flexibility in terms of route and schedule. It may also be a more comfortable form of transport and it could be less expensive if the buses were not running full. If you have little time to spare or need to visit a destination that is not served by bus routes, travelling by car may become essential.

I think the analogy is helpful, because, just as cities do not limit themselves to buses or cars, organizations should not adopt either formal training or informal learning, but should use both, according to needs and circumstances. Cars and buses use the same roads and similar fuels, even if they run in different lanes; similarly, in an organization it is ideal if a technology platform facilitates formal training and informal learning.

The characteristics of a formal system are:

–       a learning management system (LMS) within a closed environment

–       centralized decisions made by senior management regarding the training that is available and what is applicable to certain levels and roles

–       structured courses, modules and training sessions, differentiated according to levels and roles

–       content created by professional, high-quality trainers

–       relatively expensive training that it takes time to agree, prepare for and run, leading to delayed outputs

–       orientated towards grades, qualifications and certificates

In essence, companies often try to control their employees’ time and prefer them not to be distracted by studying or reading outside of approved training. Another characteristic of formal training is that HR directors may have to incentivize employees to take it up, with the promise of promotion or other reward.

Formal training works fine for new employees’ induction training and for mass basic training for relatively simple positions, but is less appropriate for training higher-level staff, or for specific positions in the organization, where training requires tailoring. It does not work well for teaching soft skills, or in settings that change rapidly. Leading organizations understand that their core staff know most about their business and are best-placed to train others; they are also keen to avoid knowledge being spread to competitors via external trainers and consultants.

The characteristics of informal learning:

–       no standard training system or platform

–       greater flexibility in its creation and use

–       use of internal experts in specific subjects, who know what their colleagues need to know

–       speedy to implement and do; relatively cheap to provide

–       use of informal presentations (often just via PowerPoint)

–       no formal monitoring systems (track and report) such as mSpy (as any such app being discovered leads to mSpy app questions regarding why it’s on there in the first place); assumption that use of in-house knowledge, given its greater simplicity and proximity, assures the success of the training

We have already stated the problem: the HR team is generally more focused on formal training, for a number of reasons. For example, historically, some team members may have come from the administrative area of payrolls and procedures, creating a culture; emphasis may have been placed on ‘hard’ skills and knowledge rather than on soft skills; the training industry takes formal education as the model to follow and tries to emulate the structure of courses; consultants push their own content and it’s easier to commission and buy training packages from a third party than finding someone in-house to do it; formal training is more tangible and measurable, and it’s easier to understand and implement.

HR leaders know the value of informal learning, they discuss it regularly at sector conferences, but it isn’t as easy to organize and set in motion, and monitoring the return on investment is more challenging. They know there are people in senior positions and roles who have to be pushed to embrace informality in a workplace setting, and find it difficult to encourage these people to support informal learning. It’s clear the ideal would be to have a platform that could be used for both formal training and informal learning, but those managers do not know such a thing exists.

I can tell you that it does, in the form of Bluebottlebiz, which has developed a platform that heightens and facilitates informal learning, while retaining some of the positive elements of formal learning. We call this mix ‘collaborative learning’, because the main intention is to foster collaboration and a culture of sharing.

The characteristics of this collaborative learning platform are:

–       a specialized platform that is intuitive and easy to use, provided at no cost to the organization; a freemium plan allows access to free content and to most of the tools and network features

–       an open environment that enables each user can find what they need, create what they wish and share it with whomever they wish to, even those outside the platform itself

–       specialized, but comprehensive, content; if there is nothing from a specific writer or publisher, there are materials that are similar from 30,000 authors and 200 publishers each check by the Grammarly free trial option

–       a desire to recycle knowledge (not to reinvent the wheel, encourage plagiarism or extensive quoting) so that the author of the content receives fair payment for their original material, while the builder of new supra-content – known as a discovery path (DP) – who rearranges or give a new focus to content is also remunerated

–       careful selection of content providers to safeguard quality. Quality is prioritized over quantity; content that does not come from recognized experts can be uploaded, but only in private or organization-specific areas, not for public consumption

–       content accessible in different formats and via a range of devices, including mobile phones, epub2, epub3, PDFs (of PowerPoint presentations), via video, magazines, statistical reports and even economic maps

–       potential for structured, formal courses, which can be personalized with comments and additional content

–       easy creation of new DPs combining book chapters, articles or videos or uploading of new material; it takes a maximum of 30 minutes to create a DP and it is material that can be digested in 90 minutes and broken into modules that can be linked together

–       participation by a mix of users including professional trainers, consultants and in-house experts; the platforms are evaluated and commented on by users themselves, making it easy to improve them and keep them up to date

–       identification, via the platform, of natural opinion leaders in each organization, which allows them to interact with peers in other organizations, sharing information (crowdsourcing philosophy)

–       creation of a social network that rewards prolific/high-quality contributors, reinforces sharing and assesses the quality of the contributions rapidly and objectively

–       overview of aggregate (track and record of the entire organization or by natural units, not individuals) due to detailed statistics (right down to how many people have read a specific page and how long they looked at it, on average)

–       privacy for individual users; unless expressly permitted by the user (or required under official regulations) details of their activity on the platform remains private, though they can opt to share content

–       systems to evaluate comments and authors/DP creators, so that users can select the most appropriate content; for example, one ‘like’ from a teacher with many followers would be rated as being of higher value than one from a reader with little experience on the platform

–       potential for recognition for readers, via certificates or qualifications based on what they have read, assessed and shared on the platform

–       a source of motivation that encourages an “I’m-going-to-learn” mode, naturally, for daily work, providing opportunities for personal growth and professional recognition

–       there is also potential for contacting specific clients or doing general content marketing; for example, when a bank uses a DP to report on the Chinese market crisis and anti-cyclical funds, it could also provide information about a new product. The content-marketing ecosystem of Bluebottlebiz covers four key groups of people: creators of original content (authors/publishers); builders of DP like consultants or content specialists that want to improve their image or income; users/readers; and distributors – organizations that want to offer their members or clients high-quality content, either free or paid for, when used for content-marketing.

In the following table, I have tried to summarize and compare the main tasks of the HR department within a system of formal training and within this collaborative platform:

Table: HR tasks in a formal training system and within the collaborative learning platform

Formal, traditional training system Collaborative learning platform
Source and pay for the platform Encourage the use of the platform, it comes free
Define courses and content for every level of seniority and role; oversee their preparation and updating Identify training required and prompt internal experts to provide this; allow most of the staff to take this up via the platform andusers find and rate similar materials
Encourage staff to take up training Oversee ratings, identify natural leaders, spread news of the best material
Direct and monitor individuals’ training (to boost short-term productivity) Focus on motivating, developing and retaining talent and on overall results
It only works for teaching Stimulate additional uses for PR and sales

Perhaps it is surprising that I included within the responsibilities of the HR department motivating employees to use the content, which theoretically is only for training, as a way to start sales relationships and to develop certain public relations activities. The first, using the content to start sales relationships, is really nothing more than a new way to customize content marketing.

The second requires a little more explanation. I have been observing for the past three years that large companies are combining their HR and marketing/communications departments. When a medium-sized company does it, this could be put down to its size, but when a large French industrial company follows suit, it is perhaps a sign that the organization is aware of the role its employees have in shaping its public image, the company’s brand. Most companies are now service companies. Having an open, stimulating, learning platform is, without doubt, an essential tool for a modern HR department that considers its role to be directly tied to the image and performance of its company. This puts to work the phrase that a company’s employees are its greatest asset.

So, will this new platform, Bluebottlebiz, live up to these expectations?

3. Bluebottlebiz’s contribution

Before analyzing what this first collaborative learning platform does and will do in the future, it is worth recalling what it should do and why. Here are the key points about these platforms:

–          digital content will grow increasingly audiovisual and will be updated more frequently making downloads too large to store and quickly obsolete; it is more logical to pay for access to content as needed

–          unlike fiction, academic and professional content is consulted rather than read cover- to-cover; a platform with multiple publishers offers access to diverse material on specific subjects, enabling users to acquire rounded and up-to-date knowledge

–          currently, a platform of this type must be in the cloud for it to be accessible at any time, from any device. Access from mobile devices is essential to enable swift, immediate visits

–          it is arguable whether platforms should be general or specialized. While a university or a public library might be more interested in a general platform, a company might want one in its sector or, at least, specializing in management subjects. When we bear in mind that content is only one of three factors, the other two being the tools and the social network, it is clear that platforms must be relatively specialized. Tools will be different for different user groups and, given that learning is to be collaborative, it should take place within a network of shared interests. It is technically possible to create different user groups within a platform, but the tangle of conversations and varying tools would be unwieldy

–          individuals have a range of interests. In theory these could be covered within a single platform, but it would not be efficient. It would be better to have a variety of specialized platforms instead. If those platforms were similar and had a system for sharing big data to enable them to improve service for every user, it would be possible to have the advantages of both options: a specialized environment for the reader and similar platform engines and software to reduce development costs and improve efficiency, from the supplier’s perspective.

We have examined the core elements of a collaborative learning platform: it must have multiple publishers; it should be specialized; it should be in the cloud. We have also seen the three pillars of a platform – content, tools and a professional network, all of which are specialized. But how can we move from theory to reality: how is Bluebottlebiz achieving this?

The platform aims to make it easy to create new knowledge using all the available resources. It brings together almost 30,000 digitalized texts in PDFs and books, magazines, long and lean articles, reports and bulletins in epub2 or epub3, videos, maps and so on from 200 publishers; 65% are in English, 30% in Spanish and the rest in French, Chinese and other languages. The monthly growth rate for content is 10%. It is a platform specialized in business content, although it has related areas of computing, engineering, law and education.

The second pillar is tools. In a corporate environment, tools must be orientated towards teamwork and communication, rather than simply enabling reading by individuals. As well as underlining text, marking it up and making notes to view oneself, users can share their annotations via social networks or in closed work groups. The tool that particularly characterizes Bluebottlebiz is the discovery path. DPs bring together books, articles, videos and other resources related to a specific topic – a maximum of six, in a set order – to aid understanding. A DP can be linked to others to create ever-more specialized knowledge trees for specific sectors, job roles, or countries. These DPs are new and original resources, only available on the platform.

To ensure the system is as fair as possible, 55% of the platform’s income is devoted to compensating the creators/providers of original content (authors and publishers), while 10% is paid to those builders who create DPs, for their work in highlighting and recycling content.

DPs can be private, read within groups or organizations, or public. The private DPs can include users’ personal content, while the public DPs must contain content from a registered provider (a publisher or a recognized consulting company).

DPs could be used for promotional purposes or training. The promotional DPs cannot contain more than one resource from a single publisher or author, unless they are put together specifically by that publisher or author. They are read for free under the platform’s freemium plan and can easily be sent to specific email addresses, shared on social networks or via QR codes on printed media or airlines’ boarding passes. (While you wait in an airport lounge with only your mobile phone and boarding pass to hand, you can now read something interesting at no cost to you.)

Promotional DPs are put together by builders: an author; a publisher; a professor who wants to establish himself or herself as an expert on a topic; a journalist or blogger who wants to add references to their article. And they are disseminated by distributors, an association keen to announce some of the topics it will address at its next conference; a company that sells stationery to small- and medium-sized businesses and wants to undertake some content marketing; a business school, discovering whether there is demand for potential courses. There are many possibilities. Discover for yourself how you can use the platform to promote your image. Every month there is a prize for the best promotional DP and for the most original use.

A training DP can use an unlimited variety of sources and, as the name suggests, is basically used to introduce a topic or, in linked versions, delve more deeply into specific material or personalize it for a company, industry or country. Unlimited reading of these DPs is available under the platform’s second plan, access to the DP library, which costs €4.99 a month although there are discounts available depending on the number of licenses contracted; two months’ access to a single DP can generally be purchased for €2.99, although the DP’s builder can set a price of up to €9.99 and pocket the difference. Besides attracting DP builders purely interested in developing training or improving their personal or corporate brand, Bluebottlebiz expects to be of interest to content builders who view DP as a new way of generating income.

The third plan allows full access to the entire platform and, in addition to providing users with access to every individual piece of content and all the DPs, it grants permission for users to create DPs if they have been able to demonstrate their professional merit as an expert. Full access costs €9.99 a month, or €89.99, where a full year’s subscription has been paid for in advance.

The third pillar, inextricably linked to the other two pillars (content and tools), is the professional network. A social network such as LinkedIn was created to support professional relationships but once you have established a network you need to nurture it with content and only using the content from the users is not easy or interesting. To help the interaction LinkedIn has opted to buy video platforms, such as Linda, but video is not suitable for sharing or adding comments.

By contrast, with Bluebottlebiz, content, tools and the social network are together and linked from the outset. The network is generated by the users, who can add themselves and create and join all kinds of groups, and can see the profiles of authors, experts or readers, the books or articles each has written, the DPs they have created, or the items they have read, or upon which they have commented. Through this, we are able to create a truly interactive book, one that allows interaction between authors and readers and also between readers. Platform users can choose between reading a book as originally written by its author, or annotated by other experts. You could choose to read the comments of the person who recommended the content to you or those of a professor who is opposed to the author’s thesis. Simply search for the content using key words; annotated options are presented via a pop-up notification. The platform uses gamification features to evaluate experts and identify the best and most influential, within each of the 15 categories into which the content is divided.

Marcelino Elosua is the founder and CEO of LID Publishing, which publishes Dialogue.

You may register for the freemium plan at www.bluebottlebiz.com. You can also sign up for a free, 21-day trial of the full access plan. Your comments and activities will be stored for a minimum of two years, even if you have not signed up as a paying subscriber.