Most people who know Common Craft think of us as video producers, and that's accurate. Along with producing videos, Sachi and I have put over a decade of effort into the design of the business side of Common Craft. It may not be obvious today, but the company has evolved significantly over the years. And the entire time, our goal was the same: to remain an intentionally small company.
My new book, BIG ENOUGH, is about our approach to business and the perspective that bigger is not always better. If you're a fan of Common Craft, the book will give you a behind-the-scenes look at Common Craft history and how Sachi and I work together.
You can download a free chapter and learn more on the book webpage at BigEnough.life.
Let's Stay Connected
Common Craft is my day job and main focus. However, I love writing and plan to publish more books. If you're interested in following my writing, I've created a few new resources that are focused on my writing and personal life.
My new book, Big Enough, arrives on September 15th and I can't wait to share it.
Big Enough tells the Common Craft story over a decade, with a focus on the experiments and decisions that helped us create a thriving two-person business that doesn't require an HR department. The book is for anyone interested in saner, healthier approaches to building a business that supports their values.
Pre-order the Book
Big Enough is available for pre-order in both ebook and paperback, using the links below. I hope you'll consider pre-ordering because you'll be the first to receive it and pre-orders help the book earn attention when it launches. The 90-second video below will make it clear.
Note: You can also pre-order from the book's home page and I'll send you free stickers and maybe Big Enough socks. :)
Explainer: Why Pre-Orders Help to Authors
From the Back Cover:
An eye-opening antidote to the endless-growth mindset, Big Enough offers an alternative path to career success
In this illuminating book, entrepreneur Lee LeFever gives an inside view of building a scalable, product-focused business—while never compromising on quality of life. Lee and his wife, Sachi, responded to the promise of the internet by building a home-based business, Common Craft, that was profitable yet small enough to pivot and innovate.
Lee takes you through the multiple business models they pursued—marketplace, digital product licensing, subscription services, distribution partnerships, and more—and offers his best tips for how you, too, can build a lightweight business that supports a life you love.
A must-read for anyone interested in entrepreneurship, business strategy, and e-commerce, Big Enough arms you with insights into how technology and innovation are changing the face of business—and how the science of happiness and the pursuit of values can help redefine what it means to be successful.
The Art of Explanation has been out for about 1.5 years now and it's been exciting to see how it has made it's way around the world. The book has now been translated into 6 languages (including 2 versions of Chinese). A Russian version is forthcoming.
It's fascinating to see the book in other languages and consider what goes into the design. For example, the western translations in Hungarian and Spanish are similar in design to the actual book, with Common Craft Style artwork and colors. The design of the Asian versions varies wildly from the original. The Japanese and Traditional Chinese versions read with pages turning to the right (opposite of western books) with vertical rows of text.
If you've read one of the translated versions, I'd love to know what you think!
QR codes often get a bad rap these days. The ugly little boxes appear everywhere and to many, they seem to be a waste of time and space. But the reality of QR codes is like any tool - the value is determined by how it’s used. When used effectively, QR codes bridge online and offline worlds by making it easier to use a mobile phone to visit a webpage, for example.
QR Codes in Books - Why?
My book The Art of Explanation recently hit the shelves. It is based on our work at Common Craft and throughout it I reference specific Common Craft videos as examples. The question became: how do we make it easy to watch the video instead of just reading about it in the paperback version? Our answer: QR Codes. By including QR codes along with references to videos, we could give readers an option to point their mobile phone at a printed page and watch a video on the Common Craft website within seconds.
Priority on Mobile
A couple of things made this work. First, the Common Craft website has a “responsive” design. This means that it automatically reacts to different screen sizes and makes for a more usable experience on a mobile phone. Second, our videos are designed to play reliably on mobile devices. Getting this right was key - the mobile experience had to work well.
Did it work?
Yes, readers are using the QR codes. Over the last three months (Oct. 6th - Jan 6th) we’ve seen over 600 unique visitors, 1200 total visits and 1900 pageviews via QR codes. I don’t know what we should expect, but I’m happy with the results so far (more data below).
How Do We Know?
A problem with QR codes is that they make it difficult to collect data. When someone visits our website from a phone, Google Analytics can track that a phone was used - but it doesn’t know what actions the user took to make that happen. We don’t know if they typed a URL or scanned a code. QR code use is hidden.
Thankfully there is a workaround that involves creating trackable URLs, which I detailed in this post. The idea is to assign the QR code a URL that gives Google Analytics data it can can use. Here’s an example with the "source" indicator highlighted:
Because I used these URLs, I can simply filter Google Analytics by the “book” source and see data on visitors from QR codes. Here’s a summary of what we know, again Oct 6 - Jan 6th:
Total Pageviews: 1,900+
Total Visits: 1,200+
Total Unique Visitors: 600+
Top 5 Devices in visits (iPhone wins by a mile):
iPhone: 800 visits
iPad: 68 visits
(not set): 35 visits
Samsung Galaxy Note: 28 visits
Motorola Droid: 20 visits
Visit Duration by Devices (iPhone users stick around):
(not set): 00:27:45
Samsung Galaxy Note: 00:48:18
Motorola Droid: 00:23:44
Top 5 Videos in page views (Generally follows order in the book):
QR Codes 426
Stock Markets 72
Unfortunately my data are limited to visits and not actual video views - I don’t know who came from the book and clicked “play”. However, I do think it’s valuable to know that people are indeed using the QR codes and visiting the Common Craft website. In the end, that’s what we wanted - to create a useful experience for the reader and give them a reason to visit our site.
A Final Note: We also have an “enhanced” ebook that has the videos embedded directly in the book. Both the enhanced ebook and QR codes are fairly new to publishers and there are some wrinkles. For instance - how do you account for a normal (e-ink) Kindle book that's not able to play videos? It seems strange to have QR codes in an e-reader, but the fact is that many of the e-readers can't handle multimedia - yet. I proposed making the QR codes clickable image files so the option was there to click-through, but it didn't work out. While QR codes are great for now, what has me really excited is the future of enhanced ebooks - more on that later.
I think we’re at the very beginning of a huge transformation that will change how we think about books. Thanks to new devices and publishing platforms, books are becoming more interactive and multimedia. One form this is taking is the "enhanced" ebook. To understand the enhanced versions, let’s start with normal ebooks.
“Normal” ebooks are essentially digital versions of regular books that are usually read on devices like the Kindle, iPad and Nook. For most of their history, ebooks have been quite similar to their paper-based counterparts in terms of content. But this is starting to change and for the first time, we’re starting to see “enhanced” ebooks.
Enhanced ebooks are essentially multimedia books. They are available on devices like iPad and Kindle Fire, which are designed for watching video and listening to audio. This makes it possible for a book to have the written word accompanied by audio, video and interactive content. A couple of examples:
The Art of Explanation
My book, The Art of Explanation, is available as a normal "kindle edition" and enhanced ebook. The enhanced version is a great fit for my book because I use Common Craft videos as examples throughout the book. By using an enhanced ebook that allows for media, I can provide a book with the videos built right into the book. Why read a video script when you can just watch the video?
Another example is Nancy Duarte’s book Resonate, which she calls a "multi-touch" book. Resonate is wonderful example because it uses the full menu of enhanced ebook options, from audio and video, to interactive quizzes, graphs and behind-the-scenes content. I've seen no better example of enhanced ebooks than Resonate. Again, why read about famous speeches when you can watch or listen to them in an enhanced ebook?
Enhanced ebooks are just getting started. I expect to see more innovation in this area in coming years. Imagine a science, music or art textbook in school that is “enhanced” to include interactive lessons along with audio and video. The potential is tremendous.