The story of the current #1 Paid iPhone Book App includes -
- A Kindle focused app called Kindling, which Apple rejected.
- Making $700 to $900 a day from free public domain books.
- Lots of really cool optimizations and App Store secrets.
It also suggests that ‘iPhone is the future of reading’ is quite an exaggeration.
Amazing Story of the $700 a day #1 iPhone Book App, and the Kindle Angle
Kindling – An App for Kindle Owners that didn’t make it
Colin Plamondon and Joel of SpreadSong were initially making an app for Kindle owners (story courtesy Mixergy).
- It was named Kindling.
- It would let Kindle owners browse through a list of free books from Gutenberg and other free book sites.
- Users could then email the books of their choice to their Kindle (at the cost of 10 cents per MB) or to another email address and upload it to Kindle themselves.
However, things didn’t go so well -
- Kindling wasn’t approved for 4 months.
- Apple had concerns that since the app was using Amazon’s messaging system Amazon might pull the plug.
- Colin says it was a totally legitimate concern. He seems to take the delay and drama well.
- After 6 months (a week ago) the app got rejected.
Wait a minute – Weren’t we talking about the #1 Paid iPhone Book App?
Yes, and here’s the good part of the story – There was another app ;) .
Taking Free Books to #1 in Book Apps
At the end of June 2009, SpreadSong launched an App, called Free Books, that let users download and read any of 23,000+ free public domain titles.
It was $1.99 and let users read public domain books.
- It started off slow, and SpreadSong were making $20 a day off of it for the first month. That’s 10 sales a day.
- As various tweaks and improvements were made and some very smart marketing strategies were used (read the iPhone app marketing strategy guide from Colin) sales and sales rank improved.
- The Free Books App hit the Top 100, and then the Top 50, and then the Top 20.
- Which brings us to right now and its current status as the #1 Paid App in the Books section of the App Store.
#1 means $700 to $900 a day in revenue share for SpreadSong. That means 500 to 650 purchases a day.
Numbers, Figures and Magic – Sales of Book Apps
We finally get insight into what sales in the Books Section of the App Store are -
- The #1 app is getting 500 to 650 sales a day. This is from right now (literally – the interview was 21st December).
- The #4 spot gets around 400-500 sales a day.
- The #10 spot gets approximately 250-300 sales a day.
- The #20 spot gets around 100-150 sales a day.
- Weekend sales are much, much higher than weekdays.
That’s the first time we have a listing of what each sales position in the Paid Book Apps section of the App Store means.
It should also help dispel the confusion that book apps are bigger than games – the top game gets over 10,000 sales a day.
To be absolutely clear - The top-selling Paid Game sells more than the Top 20 Paid Book Apps combined.
Would people please stop claiming that Book Apps are taking over the App Store.
Free Book Apps sell a lot more (surprise, surprise)
The $1.99 Free Books App has sold 60,000 total units so far. Meanwhile, SpreadSong estimate that there have been between 2 million and 5 million downloads of the Kindle.
iPhone Analytics firm had estimated 3 million people reading ebooks on the iPhone so that range i.e. 2 million to 5 million is quite reasonable.
Kindle for iPhone, Stanza, and the B&N eReader App dominate the Free Book Apps list. Kobo is making its way up the charts.
SpreadSong are choosing Palm over Android
The next destination for SpreadSong is not Android.
- Colin talked about how people with Android phones don’t buy stuff. He basically mentions that there are a lot of open source people and that means low sales for Paid Apps.
- He’s heard that the top paid apps on Android earn just $500 to $1,000 a month. Perhaps this was for Book Apps.
- Meanwhile, Palm does well despite its miniscule market share because it has small business users and an audience that is much more likely to actually buy stuff.
- He’s heard that the top 3 paid apps on Palm are making $5,000 a month. Again, this is probably for Book Apps.
All that means that SpreadSong’s Free Books App is headed for Palm and not Android. This echoes what GameLoft is doing i.e. ditching Android.
In the works - Free Audiobooks App based on Librivox
SpreadSong’s next project is going to be an App that plays free audiobooks from Librivox. There is actually an app like this in the App Store already and it’s doing quite well – it’s currently #3.
Also interesting was one of their past projects, Book Blog, which took blogs and turned them into books you could read in order.
Let’s move on to analyzing all of this and some marketing tips from Colin.
App Store Insights
Top 10 Marketing, General Tips for iPhone Apps
Do read the post and if you develop apps do see the interview. These are 10 of the most interesting things -
- Consider focusing on topping a category chart and making $8K to $15K a month instead of the $100K a month stories the press like to focus on.
- It’s not ‘get rich quick’ – it’s slow consistent work with lots of improvements to the app, lots of tweaks, and so forth.
- The Top 100 overall list is dominated by companies with marketing budgets ($3K to $5K a day per app) and brand recognition. SpreadSong pointed out Red Laser as one of the exceptions.
- Always focus on out-converting the app in front of you. Reaching the Top 25 in a category is crucial.
- The App title, the app icon, and the price are the three critical elements you control.
- Pick a name that describes the product.
- The most important things, in order of achieving them, are to get into the Top 100, then to get into the Top 25, and then to get into the Top 4.
- The iPhone shows only 4 apps at a time so the top 4 spots are critical.
- Use a description that includes the right keywords, keywords that you’ll get traffic from, and also include names of the top apps in your niche or apps that Apple advertises.
- Reviews are crucial to getting sales – the more reviews the better, the more good reviews the better.
Thanks to Colin for sharing this. It’s a ton of valuable data.
Perhaps iPhone isn’t the Future of Reading
iPhone might not be the future of reading
The top 20 paid iPhone Book Apps are -
- 7 public domain content compilations (including 2 audiobook compilations). All $1 to $2.
- 4 Bibles or Bible Apps.
- 6 comics.
- A game, a Love Dare flash cards app, and an iPhone manual.
There is not a single book in the Top 20 iPhone Book Apps.
- That means, given on what Free Books sales tell us, there is no new book being sold on the iPhone selling 150 or more copies a day.
- In fact you only have the 4 twilight books and a Vook amongst the Top 100 Paid iPhone Book Apps.
- There are no other new books at all.
The grand ‘iPhone is the future of reading’ hypothesis is just that – a hypothesis.
People who paint the iPhone as the future of reading are misinterpreting
What are the numbers you keep hearing -
- 3 million ebook readers on the iPhone.
- More iPhone Book Apps than any other type of apps.
- iPhone Book Apps are the future.
Well, what’s the reality?
- Zero actual new books in the Top 20.
- Only 4 Twilight Books and 1 Vook in the Top 100.
- The #1 Books App is selling 600 copies a day and it’s all public domain titles.
- No new book is selling 150 copies a day in the App Store.
3 million people reading books on the iPhone and can’t get even a single book into the Top 20 Book Apps.
On the iPhone, except for Twilight, new published books may as well not exist.
Where does that leave us? Dependent on Kindle and B&N
The fact that no new books are selling means we are left with just three possibilities -
- iPhone owners are doing all their reading through Kindle for iPhone, Stanza and B&N eReader.
- iPhone owners are only reading public domain titles.
- iPhone owners are not really reading much.
Regardless of which one it is, the key takeaway is that Publishers who think they can sell Books as Apps in the App Store are mistaken. It hasn’t happened so far and it might never happen.
Filed under: apple ibook reader | Tagged: iphone app success, iphone reading | 8 Comments »