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Paperlit, the start-up competing for the European podium

It provides digital services for publishing. Starting with e-reading applications

Paperlit, the start-up competing for the European podium

Nathania Zevi

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In a sector - publishing - that is experiencing a strange crisis-within-a-crisis. the Paperlit digital publishing platform will be the only Italian company competing June 7 at the upcoming European BizSpark, the prestigious competition where Microsoft will name the best start-up in Europe.

Born in 2009 in the Silicon Valley of Italian parents, Verona-native Gionata Mettifogo and Mario Mariani from Cagliari, Paperlit allows publishers to export their publications easily and with minimum impact, making them accessible on the web and any type of portable device.

In fact, in just 48 hours, the Paperlit system can transform a pdf document into a format suitable for e-reading.

Immediately greeted with favor by some of Italy's top publishing companies, Paperlit soon also made a name for itself in the United States and Latin America and boasts over 500,000 users. In 2011 alone, of the 100 most-downloaded publishing applications in Italy, 39 were Paperlit products.

The reason for this success? Being in the right place at the right time, of course, which rewarded those who understood that the most successful revolutions are made one step at a time.

Even its creators admit that transposing hard-copy content into digital is not the "sexiest" of ideas, and yet being able to understand how readers (the protagonists of this transition phase in publishing) would need to find a product in digital format before becoming used to more complex versions, was the key to this start-up's success.

In fact, thanks to their close attention to reader habits, among the various functions Paperlit was able to preserve and develop was the concept of turning pages, including maintaining the characteristic sound of rustling paper. Understanding the difficult phases a transition in reading habits entails is the no. 1 challenge Mettifogo and Mariani had to face.

A real work-out thanks to which in late 2011 they were able to launch Paperlit Social Reader, an application for Facebook that can socialize magazines using a system of micropayments.

"The 'soft' change-over to digital, especially on mobile devices with the world of Apple, Android and Microsoft that is running at break-neck speed, was a mandatory transition to which traditional publishers have responded well," explains Mariani.

"For many of them we began immediately to develop products that were already more complex, such as applications and in other forms. Microsoft understood very well - also because we use a lot of their technologies - how ours is simplicity that is actually very complex.

Winning this prize despite the fierce competition would be fantastic recognition, but above all further confirmation that the process we have embarked on is the right one," Mariani concludes.

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