Changing the DNA of the Book: India’s Papertrell

In Digital by Vinutha Mallya

The Papertrell Team (Photo:

The Papertrell Team (Photo:

India’s Papertrell seeks to “change the DNA of books by conceptualizing and building content to have a two-way dialog creating true interactivity.”

By Vinutha Mallya

Papertrell is the only system in the world that simultaneously creates, manages and distributes unique digital book experiences to all devices,” says Arun Benty, co-founder of, the start-up based in Bangalore, India.

While conceptualizing and refining their platform, the Papertrell team’s methodology was focused on breaking away from the printed book’s linear structure — with a contents page, headings and sub-headings etc. — and rethinking the book for a digital audience.

The Papertrell Shelf

The Papertrell Shelf

Unlike the printed book, the digital book as software is a constantly evolving, updating, interactive artifact, they say. “The digital book needs to be seen more as software rather than a photocopy. This changes the dynamics of the business of producing, packaging and distributing books and can be a very expensive proposition. The challenge is to create a model where digital book production and distribution make economic sense,” according to Benty.

The platform treats readers as “users” at the authorship stage. “We need to change the DNA of books by conceptualizing and building content as a means to have a two-way dialog creating true interactivity that appeals to a digital culture,” says Benty.

With the bulk of effort put in now for content digitization still focused on layout and form, the change required is to embed context and metadata into a scalable, reusable, device-agnostic XML/HTML5 format — which is what Papertrell seeks to achieve. “By ‘atomizing’ content, the interactive possibilities are limitless!” Benty points out. The Papertrell platform is designed to import content at scale, “into a highly atomized format” that makes this possible. Especially illustrated content, cookbooks, reference books and how-to books would benefit from atomizing capabilities for digital presentation and consumption.

When it came to finding ways of creating engaging content, the developers decided to apply “gamification” techniques to books. “Think locking or unlocking chapters based on quiz results or chapter suggestions based on the reader’s objectives. With these methods, a book can still remain a book – a distillation of an author’s idea, but can still be engaging and interactive,” suggests Benty. The Papertrell Storyboard allows authors to construct unique experiences for book content. To drive up discoverability, social media is embedded at the paragraph level in the digital books created on the platform.

Publishers like Rosetta Books, HarperCollins, Berret-Koehler , Octopus Publishing, among others, have used Trellisys create book apps.

The Papertrell Shelf is a relatively new offering, which allows anyone to set up a custom bookshelf app, and to create, manage and promote EPUBs and apps there.

About the Author

Vinutha Mallya

Vinutha Mallya is an independent publishing consultant, editor and journalist, based in Bangalore, India. Currently, she is a consulting editor to Mapin Publishing, a contributing editor to Publishing Perspectives, and visiting faculty for National Book Trust's publishing course. She is also an advisor to the annual Publishing Next conference.