No matter how successful a business is, it will inevitably hit a point when it’s time to find new sales channels. This is true for a small startup showing its product to the world, a huge publisher thinking about going online, and an offline bookseller looking for a new way for customers to interact with their business. Book publishers and booksellers often consider creating an e-reading app. In this post, we reveal how to make a reading app and boost your online sales.
Keep in mind that the success of a reading app is not only about the number of online books sold. The results of reading app development can offer you a whole set of benefits:
What book retailers have already created their own apps?
In 2004, Barnes & Noble was looking for new sales channels to get more bookworms as customers. That’s when they launched a website, stepping into the online game.
The next step was developing the Nook e-reader device and a Nook ebook reader app to compete with big players such as Amazon and Kobo. In just a year, Barnes & Noble got an additional $277 million from Nook-related sales and successfully obtained around 27% of the US ebook market.
But now that we all own smartphones, be it iPhones or Android phones, and iPads and Android tablets with good screens to read on, demand for e-readers is decreasing dramatically. However, a handy app to buy and read ebooks is always welcomed by users.
If you’re thinking that it’s pretty scary to jump onto the train with a big market player and you don’t have a plan, cheer up! We’ll tell you what basic and killer features to include in your app, how to get authors from the fiction and education industry and publishers to provide diverse content, and the best ways to monetize your reading app. But first things first: let’s start with the basic functionality.
What are the essential features of any modern reading app?
Any mobile app today should have a user-friendly UI and UX. But you don’t really need to reinvent the wheel. Check out the features that all popular e-reader apps have:
An in-app ebook store along with a user library management system
Support for the most popular digital formats (EPUB, PDF, TXT, LIT, AZW, ODF, MOBI).
The ability to adjust text formatting (font and size) to make reading more convenient on any screen and to meet users’ needs
Color themes and backgrounds for app customization
Cloud storage for books with the ability to download them on-demand to save storage space
The ability to search for text, books, and categories so users can find everything they need
Bookmarks, text highlighting, and notes so users can mark parts they find exciting or remember where they’ve stopped reading
A help center to make sure users can get through any issues
Social network integration for easy registration and for sharing notes or quotes from ebooks — or even for sharing ebook files
What extra features can you add?
Now that you know the basic features to start with, you’re probably thinking about how to get into the market with such big players as Google Books, Kindle, and Moon+ Reader. Don’t worry. There’s still room for one more! You can try adding killer features to catch attention and make your users loyal. Check out our suggestions on how to build a truly remarkable app below.
Let users choose the genres and topics they like by going through a set of welcome screens. Another idea is to suggest reading plans so users have something to achieve and can track their progress. You can check out the Reading Planner app to see how you can implement this functionality.
Help readers stay motivated and track their progress with detailed reading reports and graphs. MyBook, one of the top reading apps in the Eastern European market, tells users how much time they’ve spent reading, what books they’re currently reading, how many books and pages they’ve already covered, and so on.
Give users’ eyes a break from strong light by changing the UI to darker colors with night mode. Try out the Wattpad app for an example of this feature.
Help users organize their offline content for quick search and access. Your app can automatically find and sort downloaded content by series, genre, author, and format. Comicat, an Android app for reading comic books, is a great example of how you can do that.
A web version of your app (like Kindle Cloud Reader) will let your users read not only on a mobile device but on any device with an internet browser. The cherry on top is that you’ll be able to scale your business further if you create a web version, which means more customers in the future.
Give your users access to literature in different languages by providing on-demand translation (that is especially important if you provide any digital learning content). For instance, you might let users tap on a word they don’t know and see a translation by Google Translate or Amazon Translate. You can check out KyBook Reader to see how to create this feature for your app’s user-friendly interface.
Push notifications will keep your users from missing new ebooks, discounts, special offers, and recommendations. The Amazon Kindle app uses push notifications effectively. Beanstalk, an app for reading challenges, is planning to take notifications to another level. It will soon integrate Alexa, Amazon’s voice assistant, to track reading progress and remind users of new reading challenges and daily reading tasks.
Syncing across devices
Amazon offers its Whispersync tech to let all audiobook lovers switch between devices on web and mobile platforms without losing their listening and reading progress. Have a look at the Audible app to see how this feature works.
You can provide text-to-speech as an alternative to audiobooks. Some apps, like Cool Reader, offer this feature out of the box. Others, like FBReader, let users download a plugin for a text-to-speech feature. Moreover, you can add a couple of voices to make listening more comfortable.
Get users to interact with each other in your reading program. Build a rating system with comments and likes so users can learn more about digital books and choose ones they’ll truly enjoy. Goodreads is an example of a network where users can easily add reviews, suggest books to read, and track each other’s progress.
How to get more readers and make reading more immersive
With the functionality above, you might think you’ve got everything wrapped up and that users will be waiting to download your software as soon as your mobile app development is complete. But the truth is that you still have to invest massively into making reading a real attraction for users. The reason for that? Statistics!
According to the Washington Post, the number of people who read for leisure in America is at an all-time low. People increasingly prefer videos and movies to books. Social media is another factor affecting the reading habits of people around the world. We’ll share a couple of ways to spice things up and complete your recipe for the perfect reading app.
When you read a post on Facebook or Twitter, you read a sawed-off story. Why not use the same idea in a reading app? In fact, there’s already a company that does that: Inkitt. It offers bite-sized content that has plenty of positive reviews from other readers. With Inkitt, users don’t have to spend hours and days to finish a book, as they can read small chunks in minutes!
If reading a short fiction text doesn’t look that attractive, you could bring in some special effects. As an example, let’s consider Inkitt’s partner Galatea. The Galatea mobile app for book readers also offers short fiction texts, only they’re accompanied by music, voices, and various sound effects tied to specific parts of the text. Readers have to tap the screen to move to the next set of text and sound effects. So the longer they read, the more they get immersed into the atmosphere and the setting of the work.
We’ve already mentioned that audiobooks are popular. People normally have to choose whether to read or listen to a book. But what if a reading lover only wants to listen to a part of the book and then wants to get back to the text? Text-to-speech technology sounds like an option in this case, but the quality of the narration you’ll get is far from that of actual audiobooks. But there’s a way to fix that.
MyBook lets users switch from e-books to audiobooks without losing their reading progress. How is that possible? Well, the MyBook app has a database of text and audio versions for the same books and features a well-thought-out UX to let users easily switch between text and audio.
How to get more authors for your book reading business
At this point, you have everything covered for readers. Now how can you ensure you have enough content for your app? And how much does it cost to make authors join your e-reading platform? According to copyright laws, you can’t just post anything you wish in your digital library. You’ll need numerous content channels, partnership agreements, and permission from authors to offer books to your customers. Moreover, you’ll need to pay royalties to publishers and authors for books sold. But you probably already knew that. You need something more than the content you already have, don’t you?
Self-publishers at Barnes & Noble
Let’s have a look at Barnes & Noble as a good example of how to get content from multiple channels. Aside from working with publishing partners, famous authors, and huge affiliates like CJ, Barnes & Noble created their own publishing project, started collaborating with college textbook authors, created a reading device along with a reading app and, finally, provided good opportunities for self-published authors.
Yep, self-publishing is a real thing, and self-published authors sell about 30% to 40% of all ebooks in the US market. These authors are the gold mine for anyone looking to create a reading app.
Inkitt Writing app
Inkitt understood that attracting self-published authors was an important way to get more users — and their money. That’s why the company developed an app that allows writers to upload their own texts, split them into chapters, and add a cover and a description.
Texts uploaded in Inkitt become available to a wide audience of Inkitt readers who can review and comment on them. Thanks to this functionality, the most liked authors get promoted and can eventually offer paid content to readers.
Attracting self-publishers will not only bring you a wide selection of content but will also allow you to get extra revenue by selling different types of e-books. But there are more ways to attract money to your book business.
How to monetize a reading app
Most reading apps today use the freemium model, providing the app for free and allowing users to purchase books from a built-in store. Moreover, to promote their books, these apps often use newsletters and ads. However, ads seem to annoy users a bit (or more than a bit). So what are some other more effective ways to make money from a reading app?
Instead of selling separate books to users, let them read as much as they want by purchasing a monthly or yearly subscription. You can create different types of subscriptions, providing extra features like access to special book editions, journals, and audio content with premium plans. This is exactly what Kindle and Scribd provide.
Partners and sponsors
Another way to monetize your app is to get partners with a similar customer base. You can add partner ads to your app and ask your partners to place your ads in their apps. The next step would be creating an integrated experience, bringing some features of a third-party app into your own. none of the reading businesses have adopted this model yet. But this is exactly what Localytics and Optimizely did, teaming up to provide mobile analytics services.
Extra services for authors
You could also help authors improve their books by providing editing, cover design, and marketing services. This will also allow you to guarantee top-quality content, as you’ll be in control of the quality of ebooks. BookBaby provides the services mentioned above.
As you can see, there are plenty of things to consider during eBook app development as a new sales channel and a new product to drive more revenue. Even though there are so many reading apps already in the app stores, unique features can still attract users and drive lots of revenue. If you want to create an e-reading app and have questions about web and mobile app development, let us know. We’ll be happy to answer them and to provide outsourced development services for you.