Posted on March 20, 2014 in Archive

Ebook apps, know thy customer


Everybody wants to recommend you something these days. It’s a proven sales technique – how will you know you want something, if you haven’t been shown it yet? The Internet has gotten especially good at this – eBay, Amazon, basically any website that is selling something. That’s why I find it astonishing that almost no-one is capitalising on the potential for recommending content within an ebook app.

This is a serious gap in the market, if you ask me. There is a plethora of well-established apps or devices that enable us to read ebooks whenever we want – Scribd, Oyster, the Kindle, the iPad, Goodreads, to name a few. But there is no easy way in these apps to identify or create a ‘wishlist’, or a ‘what I want to read next’ list. You could try, but having to leave the app to discover other content isn’t exactly promoting your application as a one-stop reading spot. Nor is it convenient, depending whether you are the reader or the app designer.

But then there’s Readmill – an ebook app that contains a very under utilised function – the ‘mark as interesting’ feature. It’s a simple button that lets users mark books as interesting for later on. It has some way to go before it fills all the criteria of a proper recommendation tool, a major component being it’s obscurity within the app. It has a lot of potential though – this article in Medium highlights some possible uses. Tracking of geographical statistics relating to ‘want to read’ taps, mounting discounts in response to increased activity and promoting in-app special content are just some avenues that any of these apps could be taking. So why aren’t they?

Some of these reading apps are by startup companies – so perhaps they are owed the benefit of the doubt. Maybe their IT department is overrun with startup issues. Or maybe we will see some of these features in an update soon. There’s no reason why Scribd, for instance, couldn’t start a social media aspect of the application to appeal to those fanatical about books to Tweet their upcoming reading list.

If your app users still have to do this to make a book wishlist or checklist – you’re missing out on potential selling opportunities.

Some don’t get that excuse though – the big players (Amazon) have not been chasing the idea of wishlists. Again, I ask – why the heck not? Getting your consumers to tell you what they want, and to have them want you to market to them… Is that not an advertisers or marketers dream? Publishers would be very interested to hear what kind of books are interesting to what kind of people, and I bet they’d be willing to pay for that information.

An app that has a full catalogue or database of ebooks available for purchase that can both entertain users and provide data about what users want – surely that’s the best an ebook can get. It ticks nearly all of the boxes for a successful mobile app. You can be sure that this kind of data wasn’t available ten years ago when books were only made of paper, so it boggles the mind that data isn’t being mined like there’s gold at the bottom (there is gold, of course, it’s just of a metaphorical nature, not the literal yellow shiny stuff).

Ebook publishers and app designers, get your pen out and put this on your to-do list – to-do book lists for everyone! Right now the race is on to make this happen, and Readmill is winning so far. Wouldn’t you want to be the one who makes a mint on knowing your customers desires better than any of your competitors?