Stories are one of the first things you learn as a child. These stories start with little rhyming sentences of cows jumping over moons and dishes that run away with spoons which then progress to stories like little red riding hood and Panchtantra. Over time, your interest may move to novels, plays and self-help books, but in the end, they are all stories. Stories are an important part of our lives, and they shape our knowledge about the world around us.
The two pillars of the story world
The world of stories stands upon two pillars—the first being words, and the second, sounds. What this essentially means is that stories can either be read by you or read out to you. Your initial experiences of learning a story are mostly oral. You listen to stories from your parents and grandparents, friends, teachers, or on TVs, radios and the ilk. Once you learn the alphabet and the script of your native language, you start reading these stories in books. Most of us live with this preference for life—and become listeners or readers.
As times changed, paper became a scarce and often looked down commodity, so the tech world geared up to invent e-books. Electronic versions of books that could be read anytime, anywhere—as long as your mobile or e-book reader battery had some juice. This also gave rise to another variation of eBooks—audiobooks. Audiobooks and eBooks are the two new pillars on which the story world stands today.
First, the statistics. eBooks are a major industry and can even rival traditional books in some cases. According to the American Association of Publishers and the Bookseller, the average percentage of physical vs eBook or audiobook sales currently stands at about 19%. Which means that one in five books sold will be an eBook or an audiobook.
According to Globenewswire, “The Global E-Book market is expected to reach $28.73 billion by 2026 growing at a CAGR of 6.8% from 2018 to 2026.”
The Coronavirus pandemic has fuelled the growth of this industry, and the unavailability of books in the lockdown has caused customers to rally to eBook or audiobook stores online in hordes and purchase millions of eBooks and audiobooks in the last 3 months alone. This will only add to the popularity of the eBook or audiobook platforms as people increasingly stay at home, maintain social distancing and reduce physical book shopping as much as possible to stay safe.
Celebrity book readers such as J K Rowling reading the Harry Potter series, Meryl Streep reading Heartburn, and Samuel L Jackson reading A rage in Harlem have popularized the idea of audiobooks as much as eBooks.
Who are the major players in this industry?
The global eBook and audiobook industry is majorly divided between into two. The largest piece of the digital-book pie goes to Amazon—accounting for more than half of all electronic book sales globally, and with a staggering estimated figure of 53%, they are the undisputed champions of the eBook market. The rest of the share is held by Google, Kobo, Barnes and Noble’s Nook, and Apple iBooks.
Being the dominant player, Amazon’s Kindle eReader is an extremely popular device, with many individuals referring to eBooks as Kindle versions.
Why should you build an app like Kindle or Audible?
Well, why not? The eBook and audiobook market is bristling with activity today. As lockdowns and work-from-home situations have been extended across the world, eBook sales are rising and building a revolutionary and new eBook or audiobook platform is just the right thing to do today.
If you take the example of Bookshop, they have gone from a modest, 4 member team with a bleak outlook in January to sales of over US $6 million, which is light years away from their loftiest projections for the next year last December. They are now projecting a highly optimistic 10-fold growth and expect sales to be around $60 million by the end of the year.
This indeed is the best time to launch an eBook or audiobook platform of your own.
How do you build an eBook or an audiobook app?
We thought you’d never ask. Building a reading platform requires foresight, an experienced development team and an outstanding user interface. With a great development partner like Volumetree, you’ve got that covered. With years of development experience and a successful text and audiobook based reading platform already in their kitty, Volumetree has the experience and the technical skillset to give your reading app the superpowers it needs to succeed.
The key stakeholders
The key stakeholders in a reading app include:
1. The reader or the listener (the buyer of the book)
The reader is the main stakeholder of any reading app. After all, what is a reading app without a reader?
2. The author
The author is responsible for the creation of the manuscript, which is then sent to a publisher for publishing
3. The publisher
The publisher is responsible for creating the manuscript sent by the author into an actual book, which can then be sold to the reader.
These three personas drive the development of your reading app and will drive content and revenue, which are the mainstays of any reading app.
Features of a reading app
The core features of a reading app are an important aspect of your product. These features will determine your user base, which will drive authors and publishers to join your platform.
The main features of any reading app include:
- An eBook store along with a user library management system built into the app
- A web version of your reader and your audiobook platform
- Support for popular digital formats such as EPUB, PDF, TXT, LIT, AZW, ODF, MOBI
- Customize text font and size according to the user’s need.
- Customize colour themes and backgrounds
- Store books on the cloud and download them on-demand to save storage space.
- Search capabilities, with refinement for categories, text and books
- Basic reader features such as bookmarks, text highlighting, and
- Support centre for any issues users may face in the app
- Social integration for SSO and sharing quotes from ebooks, or even eBook sharing, if your app plans to offer that functionality
Additionally, to integrate an audio experience in your app, consider the following features:
- Support for downloadable audiobook formats including AA, AAX, M4A, AAC, MP3, FLAC
- Integration with smart speakers
You can also offer the following advanced features in your app to make it more appealing to users:
- Personalized content
Let your users choose the content and genres through welcome screens, or suggest reading plans to create goals.
Statistics such as time spent reading the number of books read and more can help users stay involved, motivated and can let them track their progress. You can also make similar book suggestions here to ensure that they buy more once they are done with a target. Offering a freebie such as credits to download a free audiobook can further enhance sales.
- Night mode
With blue-light being a concern globally, changing the UI to dark colours with a night mode can help.
- Offline Use
Offering book downloads can ensure that users do not need an internet connection to read. They can open the app and listen to or read the books they have already downloaded.
Apps such as KyBook reader offer an excellent translation feature within their app that helps users access literature in various languages with on-demand translation.
- Push notifications
Push notifications help users stay on top of things and not miss important communication.
- Device Sync
Let users switch between devices without breaking their reading progress.
Text to speech is an amazing way to offer read aloud content to go with the text if an audiobook is unavailable.
- Social media integration
Creating reader communities will help your users interact with each other, rate books and get an enjoyable, social experience.
How do users purchase books?
This is an important question. Purchasing books on your platform can be done in multiple ways:
1. In-app purchases through the store accessed via your e-reader. This involves the user purchasing ebooks or audiobooks from your store.
2. Books purchased and downloaded through the internet: If you plan to offer a reader or speaker functionality through your app, you will need to render or playbooks purchased and downloaded from other vendors. This can also include books downloaded from your web store.
3. Subscription services: Subscription services help users to read books or listen to audiobooks for a fixed monthly fee.
For all purchases made online, your app must also offer refunds, credits, wallet reloads and other common functionality all e-commerce stores offer for user convenience in the case of digital products. Note that this will be driven by your company policy for digital downloads.
Now that we’ve covered the features, here’s what it takes to create your app.
The Development tech-stack
The development tech stack of your app will consist of the following technologies:
- Google Maps
- Google Cloud Messaging
Although we use multiple payment methods and can customize this according to your geographical location and needs. Popular payment platforms we support include:
Backend and DevOps
Our Backend and DevOps stack include the following:
- Amazon S3
- Dyn DNS
- Symantec SSL
- Neustar UltraDNS
We use the following technologies for analytics:
- Adobe Analytics
- Adobe Target
- Google Analytics
Integrating a marketing toolkit in your audiobook or e-reader application is important. We use the following marketing tools:
- Facebook Login
- Amazon Advertising
- Login with Amazon
Plug-ins and SDKs
Developing your reading and listening ebook app will also require some plugins and SDKs. Popular alternatives include:
- Adobe Reader Mobile SDK
The Adobe Reader Mobile SDK (RMSDK) provides support for displaying ePUB and PDF content for different e-reading apps and devices.
- SkyePUB SDK
SkyePUB is another popular ePUB SDKs that can help you create a powerful, customized ePUB reader for eBook creation on iOS and Android.
ePUBear is a lightweight and highly customizable cross-platform EPUB SDK for custom eBook development.
- KITABOO SDK
KITABOO SDK is a cloud-based digital platform that allows you to create and publish DRM protected eBooks.
- Integrating audiobooks using AudioEngine
AudioEngine is an audio delivery platform that enables partners to integrate one of the world’s largest collections of digital audiobooks into their brand experience.
Although the lists of options and alternatives can be endless, trusting an experienced development partner like Volumetree can go a long way in ensuring that you choose the right technology and platform stack to create the right product for your customers. If you are stoked about this idea and want to create an exciting reading and listening platform for your users, contact our sales team for more information.