From demoing our prototype iPhone app to authors we realized that the business proposition was limited. Although people were enthusiastic about the experience, distribution was always at the center of the conversation when asking authors about considering our iPhone app for releasing their books.
This led us to think about how we could solve the distribution problem. At first, we wondered if the experience our app provided would be enough to attain a large distribution in a relatively short time period. We all agreed that it was very unlikely. That’s when we asked ourselves what prevented us from enabling authors to distribute to leading marketplaces such as Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Kindle and Nook while providing a next generation content experience.
We began to see a few trends among leading eBook readers. Most supported ePUB, a leading eBook format. From our research, we learned that ePUB was focused on a print-based reading paradigm and wouldn’t support the types of experiences we wanted to provide to readers. We also learned that many popular eBook readers often placed limits on the number of other ways a book could be distributed.
As a result, we soon realized that the content industry would be plagued with a large number of mediums, platforms and devices competing to become the leading technologies in the future. If we could be an unbiased technology solution that enabled authors to distribute content anywhere they wanted, while also providing a better reading and authoring experience we would have a unique and compelling value proposition.
While exploring this concept, we came across talks about the application of Transmedia Storytelling (coined by Henry Jenkins while at the MIT New Media Lab) to the movie industry. We realized we were applying similar concepts to the publishing world, and thus adopted the use of Transmedia Publishing.
As we further refined our conceptualization of Transmedia Publishing, we settled on a central authoring experience that would optimize content products for delivery across multiple devices, platforms and mediums to maximize reach, engagement and monetization.
With the readers’ experience and distribution at the center of our value proposition, we faced a tough decision. We could go native, make it easier to achieve a rich experience, and accept the incredible time and resource burden of having to maintain multiple codebases; or we could bet on cross platform web technologies. In the end, the more meaningful technology solution, as well as forward thinking strategy, was to push the envelope of web technologies to achieve a rich, cross platform user experience that minimized the need to integrate with different smartphone operating systems.