Publishers are looking to mobile channels to sell bespoke digital content as research suggests that smartphone users are using their devices to download content when they are travelling, or studying or for business use.
According to Bowker Market Research’s Books & Consumers survey one in 20 e-books purchased in 2012 was bought primarily to read on a smartphone, rising to one in 12 of those bought for study, reference or work, and one in eight bought to read while commuting/travelling. The survey also found that ownership of tablets overtook the ownership of dedicated e-readers in 2012.
Virgin Books is experimenting with creating e-books specifically to be read on mobile phones. The publisher will be releasing its title, The Sound Business Challenge, by young entrepreneur Jamal Edwards, who founded online broadcaster SB:TV, as six downloadable chapters in August. Each e-book will be priced at 99p.
Publishing director Ed Faulkner said the price was a “sweet spot for people who are used to trying apps, and are on their phone anyway”, and said the focus was on reaching the book’s target audience who may not be frequent readers, or own an e-reader, but who are “definitely a phone-owning demographic”. He said: “In each level of the book, you click through to chose a certain path in setting up your business, leading to success or ultimate failure. The book is designed to tap into a slight gaming aesthetic and culture, and we decided to innovate with a business book that is reaching a totally new demographic.”
He added: “It’s where the zeitgeist is anyway—everything is going through your phone, that is the hub of everything . . . If the market is there, then we want to innovate all the time, and engaging with that 16–24 market, we can see [this approach] working for business books and pop culture as well. I think obviously phones and tablets are taking up a lot of the digital market—it’s interesting to gear it towards mobile.”
Faulkner noted the importance of using social media to promote e-books for younger demographics, with a lot of social traffic going through sites regularly accessed through mobile phone apps, such as Facebook and Twitter.
Bloomsbury’s Stephanie Duncan also emphasised the value of using mobile phones to promote e-books. She said: “In terms of producing e-books for phones, publishers don’t have to do much—the key comes in promoting them. We need to access people through their phones so it as easy as possible to reach them, whether that is through tweets or another medium.”
However Joel Rickett, publisher of Penguin imprints Viking and business specialist Portfolio, said: “I think it’s risky making books tailored just to one device—people are very savvy and like to change between them. There’s also the risk that the technology will change, so you could spend money making a product for one device only to find it superceded in a few months.”