16 July 2014

Respecting the Reader

I've been asked a number of times why Enthrill hasn't created a reading app. On the surface, it seams like it would solve a lot of issues such as the need for a DRM and ease of download. Frankly, creating an app for the delivery of ebooks is short-sighted and here's why:

A couple of points on my choice of words before we go on; when I say 'readers', I mean people that read, not devices - when I'm referring to what they are reading on I will say 'devices'... not readers.

Consumer Behaviour
Most readers already have a favourite place to store and read their ebooks, creating another app just so they can can download and read is, in essence, trying to change consumer behaviour. (A note on the Canadian version of British spelling, we use U's where the US don't) In fact, most readers use the native app provided by the device or they use a third party, dedicated reading app like Bluefire to read and store their ebooks.

Making readers download multiple apps in order to read or store their books is akin to asking them to create multiple bookshelves in their home to house their books. Consumers like to have their books in one place, save perhaps the odd coffee table book.

Even if you are successful in getting the consumer to download your reading app and putting a few books into the collection there, it will not be 'sticky'. Consumers will go back to their favourite reading app or native reading app because that's where all of their content has been curated over time. And, the app that you spent so much time getting people to download, will be forgotten amongst all of the other flavour of the day apps that you've downloaded to your device.

So, in order to have long term traction, you need to establish your new reading app as the customers new choice of reading app and for them to abandon their current reading environment - good luck with that.

Respecting Readers Choice
So, we asked ourselves, why try to change consumer behaviour? Why create a new reading environment for them? Why not deliver ebooks to customers where they want the ebooks to reside, where they already reside?

We decided to respect the readers choice. And, when we respect the reader and give them the choice where they want to read the ebook the are downloading from us, they have access to the content every time they go to read... not when they happen to remember that they have our app.

If you read all your books on the Bluefire app because that's your reading app of choice, why would we want to change that? We deliver to that app because it's what the reader wants. As far as I'm concerned, the reader is the most important part of the equation - ultimately, they make the purchase, so they should be given the choice where they want to read... so that's exactly what we give them, choice.

Limited Audience
Creating an app means that you can only target and deliver to people with tablets. While there is a lot of noise about the growth of tablets, many readers still prefer Eink devices to read books. In fact, many readers have both an Eink device and a tablet.

Tablet sales do not necessarily equate to additional readers. And, just because tablets and smartphones are becoming ubiquitous does not mean that they've replace Eink devices or that Eink devices have suddenly stopped being used. There are millions and millions of Eink devices in market and yes, their sales have declined dramatically over the last year or two, but slow sales do not equate to the consumer not using the devices. When car sales crashed in 2008, people were still driving cars.

We elected to develop our technology to deliver ebooks to any device, any platform, any reading app - this means content owners and publishers can access the entire reading market, not just app enabled devices. In essence, we deliver to 100% of readers - no app based platform can claim this - they may use words like cross-platform delivery and device-agnostic, but an app-based delivery service cannot service the entire reading market.

The Long Tail
In our business, we are partnering with some of the largest retail brands in the world. We need to ensure that the ebooks we deliver are being used by readers and that they are valued by the reader or they will not return for more. It's not enough to get customers to download an app and then download a book that only works in that app, we need them to be engaged with the content on an ongoing basis.

Having the customer see value in the ebooks we provide to them, means they will be back to purchase more. We want evergreen customers, not trials. Enthrill, since day one, has been set up to provide publishers with a new sales channel, this means planning for resilience in our product and how it's used.

If you're not putting ebooks into the bookshelf where the reader is reading from, what is the purpose of giving them the content in the first place? I mean, if they are not going to read it, what's the point?

Some Background
Enthrill has had some amazingly talented developers working on our product over the years.

Back in 2010, our team developed a browser-based reading app (using Monacle as a base) for the transmedia thriller novel we published. It was very well thought out and worked brilliantly. We had a media player built in for the books' soundtrack, it also allowed for the delivery of serialized content and offered all of the functionality that any tablet device could offer. It was really quite good.

It was through this development and seeing how it was used by consumers that we saw the limitations and implications of delivery through this method.

I have always believed keeping the customers best interests in mind and ensuring they have an experience or product that is valued by them will always result in success. To that end, we will continue to respect the reader and the reading environment they have chosen.