The Netherlands’ Renew the Book: Three Winners

In News by Porter Anderson

The fifth iteration of Amsterdam’s Renew the Book honors three start-ups related to publishing, primarily in digital contexts.

Martin Voigt, CMO of Nextens and program director for Renew the Book, leads a conversation onstage during the awards program at Amsterdam’s Pakhuis de Zwijger on June 27. Image: Renew the Book

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Two Innovation Awards, One Pioneer Prize
APublishing Perspectives readers will remember, the Groep Algemene Uitgevers—the organization of Dutch book publishers of literature, children’s books, and nonfiction—produces a competition called Renew the Book. A recognition program for publishing-related start-ups, it’s meant “to give more attention to innovative initiatives that are already operating in the book sector.”

In a standard year, the program presents an Innovation Prize for publishing-related developments, normally in the digital sphere. And there’s also a “Pioneer Prize” which is meant to introduce “talented new book professionals” to the industry.

As it turns out, this year’s awards—in Renew the Book—have gone to two Innovation Prize contenders as well as a Pioneer Prize winner. The fact that there were two Innovation Awards is a surprise: this is the first time a jury has decided to award two recipients.

The two Innovation Prize winners—each receiving €10,000 (US$10,732)—go to “The AI Books” from Maven Publishing and Besties, the name of a line of “listening cards.” These winners also are given trade-visitor access to Frankfurter Buchmesse (October 16 to 20) and a mentorship program.

The Pioneer Prize has gone to Hebban’s Innovation in the Classroom, and that award, provided by the GAU Onboarding Program, carries a purse of €2,500 (US$2,683).

There are eight criteria by which potential winners are appraised, expressed by the organization in these questions:

  • Has the project started in the past three years?
  • Is it a concrete innovation in the field of content, product, marketing, distribution, target group, digitalization, process, data or business model?
  • Is the innovation feasible and realistic?
  • Is the innovation unique?
  • Does this potentially lead to more books read or purchased?
  • What is the nature of the validation?
  • Have sufficient steps been taken and insights applied?
  • Is the innovation scalable?

The awards were presented on Thursday (June 27) as part of a Renew the Book “Innovation Congress” in Amsterdam.

Here are notes  from the jurors about their three selections.

Audience members at the Innovation Congress staged by Renew the Book on June 27, during which its 2024 awards were presented. Image: Renew the Book

Innovation Award: Besties listening cards

Quoting from the jury’s rationale:

“The jury sees Besties as an innovative bridge builder: it stimulates children’s imagination, it reduces screen time, and it connects audio to retail.

“It’s an extremely clever invention. Besties  is a new proposition in which various ‘profits’ are realized. Not only are the Besties (figures that are on the phone and activate an audiobook) made of cardboard, which results in an affordable, environmentally friendly, and quickly deliverable product. It also leads to less screen time for young children, helps to seduce them into the magic of stories, and is an innovation that also benefits bookstores.”

At the Innovation Congress staged by Renew the Book on June 27, during which its 2024 awards were presented. Image: Renew the Book

Innovation Award: AI Books

Quoting from the jury’s rationale:

AI-Books makes it possible to ask questions about a book via another tool (Whatsapp). AI-Books has been launched as a new manifestation of a book, a redefinition. Very careful consideration has been given to all matters that also apply to books, such as copyright, scalability, margin, co-creation, and creating engagement with the reader.

“The jury is charmed by two things. First, an  experiment to apply AI to closed content sources to introduce a new reading experience; second, scalability by immediately introducing it as an industry-wide business model by making the technology and services available to other publishers.”

At the Innovation Congress staged by Renew the Book on June 27, during which its 2024 awards were presented. Image: Renew the Book

Pioneer Award: Hebban in the Classroom

Quoting from the jury’s rationale:

“The jury finds the initiative of Hebban in de Klas, a rock-solid answer to the struggle of education to pay attention to reading books in a constructive and fun way. Hebban in de Klas stimulates peer-to-peer inspiration and motivation in a creative way that fits in with this time and the experience of young people, the target group that will become the customers of the book trade.

“As an online book club, Hebban is full of smart applications that the jury believes will really resonate with readers, such as challenges and being able to see what classmates are reading. It is also good that it was developed in collaboration with teachers. The tools especially for them also make it an impactful and promising innovation.”

Representatives of the two winning Innovation Awards and the Pioneer Prize onstage, June 27. Image: Renew the Book

The Renew the Book site features a recording of the awards program, here.


More from Publishing Perspectives on startups is here, more from us on book and publishing awards programs is here, and more from us on the Netherlands is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.