Spoof agony aunts, Spotify and The School of Life: Bob Books’; Ibolya Nemeth on how to harness the internet for the good.

When Ibolya Nemeth arrived in London from Hungary to work as an au pair twenty years ago, she had no idea that her life was about to change forever. As with all grand love affairs, the experience would prove transformative. Her passion for the city soon found expression in photography, and it wasn’t long before she swapped childcare for a job in the commercial division of the BBC, BBC Worldwide, where she worked for seven years in various guises, from BBC Audiobooks to magazines, such as the Radio Times.

But the next big change was just around the corner and appeared in the form of a fateful meeting with one John Brown, who happened to be the chairman of Bob Books, the UK’s leading, privately-owned, online self-publishing photobook company, as well as the feted founder of John Brown Publishing.

That was 2006, and on the strength of Ibolya’s expertise in publishing photography, marketing, finance and logistics, he offered her the job of running his newest venture. The business had taken root after John was approached by Mireille Burkhardt, whose father Hans, a third-generation Swiss bookbinder, had set up an early photo book company in Zurich.

In 2009, Bob Books moved to the UK and has, ever since, been busy pioneering a multitude of premium products, such as lay-flat lustre photo books and matte paper books. Last year, in recognition of its exemplary website, service and products, Bob Books scooped the prestigious App of the Year Award at our annual The Good Web Guide Awards 2019.

Here, Ibolya, who lives with her husband, their two children Ruby and Lucas, and three cats in north-west London, shares her favourites sites, apps, podcasts and blogs, and tells us how, when treated carefully, the internet can powerfully enhance our lives.

My favourite website...

I know it’s very obvious, but The Guardian remains my most accessed website. I’ve been hooked on it ever since I first became aware of the paper format at the home of the family I au-paired for when I first arrived in London from Hungary over twenty years ago. It might have veered, as so much news media has, in recent years towards entertainment and sensationalism but is still capable of incisive investigative journalism and is still way ahead of other media in its arts and environmental coverage.

I’m very new to Canva, which was recently recommended to me by one of our designers. It’s a very powerful, do-it-yourself, design platform. It’s invaluable for someone like me who needs to create very fast turnaround graphic elements that don’t necessarily require the expertise of a professional designer.

The site that inspires me...

I also love The School of Life. Founded by Alain de Botton, the philosopher and author, it’s a vital resource to help us navigate many of the obstacles and challenges that confront us in our daily lives. There are a plethora of resources, articles, products and courses available to help us deal with everything from relationships, careers, our state of mind and who we are as people.

My favourite app...

Spotify. It’s hard now to imagine a world without Spotify and it could be the single greatest online platform to emerge since the internet was created. It’s something that I try very hard not to take for granted. I spent so much of my teens hunting through second-hand record shops, so to have practically the entire world’s library of recorded music at my fingertips, available at any time, is still absolutely astonishing and one of the main aspects of the online world that gives me constant joy.

I’m still missing the BBC iPlayer radio app and getting used to the Sounds app, but I couldn’t survive without 6 Music or Radio 4, my audio companions after Spotify. I’d be utterly lost without all three.

I’m using Culture Trip a lot at the moment. It’s a brilliant resource for helping plan holidays and trips for the year ahead.

My favourite blog...

Brain Pickings is Maria Popova’s wonderful site on books, philosophy, theories and so on. It’s my food for thought.

Until a few years ago it would have been my husband’s blog before he switched to Instagram. He wrote it to be able to remember all the details he knew our memories would lose during the extraordinary period in our lives from the conception of our first child, through to the birth and early years of our second. It’s a wonderful record to look back on. I hope our children will be able to appreciate it in years to come as an insight into the early years of our family.

My Internet hero...

Stephen Wozniak, The Woz , the tech brains behind Steve Jobs. Without him, no consumer devices, such as the iPad or the smartphone would have been available to popularise the internet.

My favourite podcast...

I adore Karina Longworth’s You Must Remember This. It is dedicated to exploring the secret and/or forgotten histories of Hollywood's first century. The shows are divided into sub-series that cover many incredible stories and themes from the golden age of Hollywood. Karina writes, narrates and produces the podcasts, which are so beautifully delivered and always deliciously entertaining.

However, I’ve recently found myself seduced by the incredibly funny and very filthy Dear Joan and Jericha, Julia Davis’ and Vicki Pepperdine’s appallingly judgmental and brilliantly convincing agony aunts. I’m very fortunate that the arts centre my husband runs, Kings Place, hosts the London Podcast Festival so I get to see so many of the Podcasts I follow performed live.

My favourite YouTuber...

I don’t watch anything on YouTube, but my children are obsessed with The Norris Nuts to my great annoyance. From what I can tell, the show follows the antics of the four very wealthy Norris children as they carry out dares, challenges and shopping. I can’t see the appeal myself, but my children absolutely love them!

My most recent online purchase...

I’m simultaneously super-organised and spontaneous so I spent the post-Christmas break booking tickets for our summer holidays and purchased some cat food for our three cats.

Last book you downloaded or read...

I never succumbed to a Kindle or digital reading device as I love the heft of a good, solid, paper book. I normally have a few books on-the-go at any time, but one book in particular has kept me reading way past bedtime recently: Adam Kay’s This Is Going to Hurt. This has been a wonderful insight into his time working as a junior doctor in the NHS. As sad and emotional as it is, it’s also laugh-out-loud funny at times.

Favourite tweeter...

@Queen_UK has been making me giggle on a regular basis. It’s a glorious spoof Twitter account about what the Queen could be thinking.

@SharonHorgan. Who doesn’t like Sharon Horgan? To me she is the queen of honest comedy, an excellent writer and actress too.

Favourite Instagrammer...

I’ve recently fallen in love with Sara Kiyo Popowa’s @shisodelicious Instagram feed. Sara is a remarkable multicultural cook, artist and photographer. Her feed beautifully combines all her visual and cookery skills, with very strong health and environmental interests. Shisodelicious keeps evolving and growing, recently extending into workshops and books. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Social media allowed me to meet...

Some of our lovely Bob Books partners, who we have managed to collaborate with over the years. Social media has also allowed my team and I to forge a much closer relationship with our customers. It has also extended what we are able to offer, so we can enhance their experience, beyond the transactional and into editorial, tips and advice and bring people together in a community of like-minded, visually passionate and creative people.

The best digital advice I've been given...

This was the advice before Cloud: take a backup, then back up the backup.

My screensaver is...

My children, when they were tiny and all snuggled together.

My standout online memory...

Obviously winning The Good Web Guide Award this year. Apart from that, doing work experience for a photo agency and, having never used a computer, trying to work out how to use the internet. Launching my very first website at the BBC, it was nerve-wracking and very stressful as it was all very new, but also hugely exciting.

My pet online hate is...

Where shall I start? I really don’t like to use the word hate but I sometimes resent how much the digital world has overtaken our lives. We have to be strict and disciplined with our screen time and ensure it doesn’t encroach on our relationships and our presence in the real, physical, world.

Social media comes in for a lot of criticism. How can we harness it to feel better – rather than worse – about ourselves?

It is so true. When you look at other people’s ‘perfect’ lives you start judging your own and it is very unhealthy. It took me a while to realise that everyone edits their lives and only post the best bits, giving the illusion of perfect, enviable, lives. I’m just as guilty as anyone. Someone recently said to me ‘I hate looking at your photos as they make me realise, we don’t ever go anywhere or do anything’. This made me feel awful and very embarrassed and has subsequently made me a lot more conscious about the content I share.

The Internet has enabled a democracy of learning, thanks to YouTube talks, online courses and more. What are the best online resources for learning?

It is incredible to have information on your fingertips. I remember when I was studying, my bedroom floor was covered in lexicons (remember those?) and reference books, but now all you need is a laptop.

For me, Ted Talks revolutionised how we learn about topics. You can find anything you are interested on there and you know the speaker will be an expert in some form. This platform has given a chance to anyone who has something interesting to say about a subject.

And how do we filter out the information overload to find the useful stuff?

We have to be very disciplined and not get seduced by ‘click bate’ images that send you off to some random site you would never usually have any intention of going to. Select the news you want to read, the research you want to do and be strict with yourself about not getting distracted by constantly checking your emails or social media. Don’t be afraid to switch off entirely from some channels. I can’t tell you how liberating it felt for me to come off Facebook a few years ago.

On balance, the Internet: a force for good or ill?

Without question more a force for good than for ill. What it’s done to bring people together and to make the world a smaller place has been revolutionary. For people’s voices to be heard all across the world in seconds; for revolutions to start across the globe; for the environmental catastrophic effects to be highlighted; there is no way we could do this so effectively without the internet. Like all of mankind’s endeavours, there is a dark side of the web, but the good and positive aspects far, far, outweigh any negativity.


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By Nancy Alsop

Nancy Alsop


Nancy is a magpie for the best in design and culture.