My name is Christian Zierleyn and last year, after having served a term as alderman in my local community of Weesp, a small Dutch town 15 minutes from the center of Amsterdam, it was time to pick up my career where I left it. Politics is a strange profession. When I became a politician four years earlier, I stopped working in the document management and capture industry and suddenly I was into public welfare, talking to local businesses and sports clubs, reading reports on local issues and trying to make a difference. It was exceptionally rewarding work and when it was time to move on I realised I was hooked on having work that’s so fulfilling it makes you happy.
I could indeed pick up my career where I left it, but the change in career four years earlier had been such a game changer, in the sense that it opened my eyes to the fact that there are other roads to be travelled. Suddenly I realised that it was not self-evident that I would indeed pick up my career where I left it. What if I chose something completely different to pursue? A new career adventure. And now for something completely different? And what could that be?
I’ve always been someone with too many ideas and at first my thoughts wandered far and wide. I felt a bit like being a kid again and imagining becoming a pilot, firefighter, or astronaut. Wow, everything is possible! Except of course it’s not. I was 44, settled with wife and kids and it was probably a bit late and complicated to become a pilot or astronaut.
It quickly dawned on me that I needed to find something that was close to my first principles. Something that got me really excited and that was at the same time within the reality box of my possibilities. Quite a challenge for someone with an abundance of imagination. I’ve always had two completely diverging interests. As a kid I was a bookworm that spend much of my time in the public library and second hand bookshops. I read myself through different sections of youth literature, first starting with everything by Enid Blyton and Karl May, then I moved on to detective novels, Agatha Christie and science fiction, before finding myself enthralled with literature. Dutch classics, German literature, English and American classics and I also read a lot of history and philosophy. On the other hand I was fascinated by technology. When I was 16 I became a radio amateur. I had a handheld VHF transceiver, built my own antenna on the back of my bike so I could talk with my friends when riding along. That was ten years before people had mobile phones. I played with computers, built complicated cars with Lego Technic, I was an amateur astronomer, had a telescope that I built myself and on the ceiling of my room hung miniature rockets and airplanes.
I studied Literary Sciences and then gave it up in the Nineties to have my part of the dot-com bubble. I worked for an American Document Management company, entered the Web Content Management craze and had a blast until that moment five years ago when I suddenly became a politician. When that ended I felt it was time to combine my two passions. Books and technology. The obvious synthesis of these two interests was everywhere in the news and could be summarised in one simple word. Ebooks.
Something else happened last year. Since I was a kid my favourite pastime when I wasn’t reading or building a new toy was writing. I’ve been writing stories, poetry and letters as long as I can remember. Writing was my way to get my thoughts sorted out and it also was my favourite way of communicating. Until last year all that writing never produced anything worth publishing. But after I finished as an alderman something strange started to happen. My writing suddenly gained focus and before I knew it I was writing with a joy I had never experienced before. Stories gushed onto the page and after a while I had one story I was actually proud of. It was a short romantic story based on how I met my wife. I called it “De Champignontest”, or “The Mushroom Test” in English. After I wrote that story I thought it would be cool to give it a try and self-publish this story. I read a lot about self-publishing and about how it was taking off in the US. So I decided to give it a try and create my first short-story ebook. How hard could it be?
It was then that I realised self-publishing is kind of hard. I wrote my story in a distraction-free writing environment, but ended up with a text file I needed to transform into a proper ePUB file. I didn’t want to invest time and money in a high-end solution like InDesign, I realised I could use a free tool like Sigil, but that felt more like programming a book than writing a book and of course I could go for a service like Smashwords, but that was not as simple as I thought and it would also cost me an extra 10% of my revenue. Why wasn’t there a simple and cheap text editor on the market in which I could write my story and when it was finished I could click a button and end up with a proper ePUB file? Was that too much too ask? Does one need to be a programmer to create an ebook? Does it have to cost a lot of money?
I read books and blogs about the subject, visited the Frankfurt Bookfair to see what solutions I could find and in the end I concluded that I couldn’t find what I was looking for, a simple and cheap solution to write and create ebooks. That’s when I started writing down and skeching how an app would look like specialised in creating ebook files. How would it be different from writing apps on the market? Was ePUB such a difficult format that a simple solution was impossible?
This was the beginning of my ebook adventure. While sketching and writing I realised that if I really wanted an app like this, it would be up to me to realise it. That was a year ago. That’s when I started working on Eboocz, a distraction-free ebook authoring tool. Write your story, click the Create ebook! button and you’re done. That was the idea. See for yourself how it turned out!