The Appside is at the London office of Faber & Faber today for the IPG Digital Quarterly meeting, organised by the Independent Publishers Guild. A series of speakers are talking about digital publishing: not just apps, but e-books and other formats too.
Ayman Mackouly from Majoobi was the sixth speaker at the event. “What we are really about is changing and transforming the way publishers make that transition from print to digital,” he said. “It’s about innovation that solves real-life business challenges, and not the opposite.”
Which is handy. The company aims to help publishers sell their books or magazines to smartphone and tablet owners, but it also works with companies on internal communications – reports and so on – and retailers who have catalogues that need digitising.
He talked about the new challenges for publishers in the e-books market, where competition is not just about the quality of content – titles – but about the quality of the e-book itself, with technical and cost barriers for smaller publishers.
Mackouly talked about the e-book value chain, criticising the charges made by distributors and retailers, as well as the fact that publishers don’t get access to any customer data. But he used the Financial Times as a lesson about a potential alternative.
The newspaper actually removed its iOS app from Apple’s App Store due to the company’s new rules on subscription billing. “They have an alternative which is an application based on HTML5 technologies,” he said. “It installs on the homescreen, runs like an app, feels like an app. It’s an app.”
The FT had 100,000 registered users when it left the App Store in June 2011, according to Mackouly. Two months later it had 550,000, and by November 2011 it had one million. 45% of those users have added the app to their homescreen, and those users are also 2.5 times more likely to subscribe to the FT’s digital service than previous users of the native app.
Majoobi does something similar, but for e-books, aiming to cut distributors and retailers out of the value chain, letting publishers sell to and interact with consumers directly. “If you have 50 books, you will have your own store. You don’t have to rely on Apple, you don’t have to rely on Amazon.”
Publishers can charge for those e-books through their website however they like: purchases, subscriptions and/or rentals. They can promote their web-app through QR codes, print, website links, text messages and emails, among other channels.
Once an app is installed on an iPhone or iPad homescreen, users can navigate through the publisher’s catalogue of e-books, browsing listings and sample content, then pay for purchases through the publisher’s website, using whatever payment method they have chosen – credit card or PayPal, for example.
Majoobi makes its money from charging publishers licensing fees for using its service: around £6,000.