From Book Oven to PressBooks, Hugh McGuire Shares His Startup Story

Hugh McGuire is a well known Montreal entrepreneur. In fact, he’s known all over the world. Hugh is the founder of LibriVox, the largest catalog of audio books from the public domain. It’s a great service and continues to grow. A few years ago, Hugh decided to take a crack at building a “for-profit” company called Book Oven. The goal was to build a platform for book publishing. He and his co-founder raised capital from Montreal Startup and went to work.

Like with most startups, things at Book Oven didn’t go as planned. Hugh shares a good part of that story in the interview below. Out of the ashes of Book Oven though, Hugh is now working on PressBooks. There’s some definite overlap in the mission of the two companies, but the approach Hugh is taking is radically different. And just to add a bit more complexity to things, between Book Oven and PressBooks, Hugh launched Iambik, an audio book publisher (taking from his experience at LibriVox). Iambik still operates.

Hugh’s story is a testament to perseverance, learning, pivoting and just how hard it is to build a successful startup. In some ways, this interview is a postmortem and startup launch story all in one. It’s certainly worth reading, Hugh shares a lot of painful lessons learned that will help other startup founders.

NextMontreal: What is PressBooks?

Hugh: PressBooks is a simple book production tool. It lets you and your team easily author and output books in multiple formats including: epub, Kindle, print-on-demand-ready PDF, HTML, and InDesign-ready XML. It’s built on top of WordPress and will be open source.

PressBooks is a reinvention and focusing of some of the ideas that went into BookOven.com, which we started building in late 2008 (!).

NextMontreal: Are you the only founder?

Hugh: Yes. When we started Book Oven, there were two founders: me and Stephanie Troeth. Steph left the company in late 2009, and I recently bought back her stake in the company, so I am the sole remaining founder.

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