Employee of the week: Bjørn Terje Bakken

When I listened to Evernote founder Phil Libin, he said (only half jokingly, I believe) that you should not bother to make friends with people you could not start a company with. With Bjørn Terje, it was the other way around – we started working together back in 2001 and I am glad that we have since developed a friendship through being both customer/partner and colleagues in different roles over the years.

Bjørn Terje was our first pilot customer, but left his role as leader of the digital team at Samlaget after an acquisition and reorganization. He now works as a manager in the public sector in his daytime job. Thus, when the time came to recruit our first external board member he was both a natural first choice and available. He did not dare to say no and we are so happy he is contributing on both practical and strategic levels for our firm’s development.

Let’s have a look at what mr. Bakken had to say about himself:

Name: Bjørn Terje Bakken

Title: Board leader

Speciality: Keeping the strategic focus in discussions

Background: Principal study in Geography (NTNU) and employment at Høgskolen i Nord-Trøndelag (lecturer), University Graduate Center at Kjeller (advisor e-learning), Inspera AS (project leader, advisor), Det Norske Samlaget (head of digital unit) and Government Administration Services (head of web development unit).

Fun fact: Able to use a hammer and saw with both hands, and would love to be a carpenter the next time around

Raving review

Dagbladet Nov 11th 2013
Dagbladet Nov 11th 2013

I was made aware of today that in a review from two days ago, in one of Norway’s largest newspapers Dagbladet, Cappelen Damm’s Løveunge (literally “Lion Kid”, its series for early readers) was called “the best reading training app so far”. From the link you can see the online version and the picture is from the printed version. How fun!

Cappelen Damm has been using these features:

  • Layers to activate different sets of sounds
  • Read-along/”karaoke mode”
  • Sound effects with random start and/or delays
  • Custom styled menu
  • In-app-purchase
  • Recording of your own voice (including a new mode for recording all pages in one go)

The app is available both in Google Play and Apple App Store – have a look and enjoy.

How-to video: Saving space

In our series of how-to videos, we will today feature a video that shows how you can use the work area efficiently. You’ll find the video embedded below.

I hope that was simple enough? Using the opportunities to zoom (another video, in fact), minimize certain elements of the interface and even go full screen can be quite useful. In addition you should of course use your browser’s capabilities for full screen or presentation mode. And of course, beg your boss for that nice new high-res monitor – tell him we said you needed it!

If you have questions above the feature shown above or suggestions about new videos topics we should cover, be sure to let us know.

Employee of the week: Tudor

TudorHow long do you have to work a place until you stop being “the new guy”? Right now there is no doubt Tudor has to live with this label. Luckily for him, we have no big tradition for having the new guy paying for the Christmas party – but thinking of it, never too late to start a tradition, right?

Here are the well chosen word from Tudor on the topic of, well, Tudor:

Title: Software Developer

Specialities: Software Engineering, Architecture, Design and Testing/QA. Computer Security, Concurrent Programming, Cloud Computing, UML, Java, C, PHP, MySQL.

Background: Currently finishing Master’s Degree in Software Engineering. Bachelor Degree in Computer Science Faculty of Automation and Computer Science, “Politehnica” University of Timisoara.

Fun fact: My favorite quote is: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them” –Albert Einstein

How-to video: Peekaboo! (Hide and show…)

In our series of how-to videos, we promised to be back this week with a somewhat more advanced feature. Guess what? We are!

Today, we will feature a video that shows how you can show and hide sets of objects when the user taps certain area (or with timed events, more on that later). You can find the video embedded below.

Note that this feature goes well beyond what we explained before about hiding and showing the layers, or object categories as we like to call them since they are used beyond basic layers, in the authoring tool.

If you feel like a pro, try to use the tip at the end to switch sets of objects (some that may even contain navigation) on and off across the project. This is what was used for the multiple sets of sounds, some with karaoke mode, in the Leseland title released on both Android, iOS and Windows Store this summer by our customer Samlaget.

If you have questions above the feature shown above or suggestions about new videos topics we should cover, be sure to let us know.

TapBookAuthor at the Frankfurt Book Fair!

TapBookAuthor is present at the huge Frankfurt Book Fair. This is the place to be if what you are doing is even remotely related to books.

I’ve been roaming around the vast premises, meeting and getting to know a lot of interesting people. From small one-person shops, to big publishing groups. I’m impressed with the depth and beauty of the children’s books I’ve seen, many of which are small outright pieces of art!

The feedback I get on the tool is very positive, so I’m sure we will be working on digitizing and enriching some of these beautiful books very soon. We’re looking forward to establishing and building strong relationships with the very interesting people I’ve met during these days.

There are still a couple of days left of the Fair, so let me know if you are interested in a quick chat.

How-to video: Keep your style consistent

In our series of how-to videos, we will today feature a video that shows how you can set styles that will be used throughout your project. You find the video embedded below.

That was simple enough, wasn’t it? By next week we’ll be back with another video and that one will probably be touching on a more advanced topic. Please check back!

If you have questions above the feature shown above or suggestions about new videos topics we should cover, be sure to let us know.

Four weeks in Palo Alto

The next four weeks our CEO will be in Palo Alto, California – right in the heart of Silicon Valley. The purpose is to see if we should have a more permanent presence here, but not least to talk to potential customers.

So if you are based on the US West Coast and would like to have a demo of, let Sondre know and he will come to your location to show you how the tool can help create awesome apps without custom programming.

From day to day, we’ll be based out of 470 Ramona St and we stay close to downtown Mountain View.

Finally a proper license plate, from The Golden State

How-to video: Setting an image as the background

In our series of how-to videos, we will today show how you can set an image, or some other object, as the background of the scene. You can have a look below to see how this works, as always you can switch to full screen by using the bottom right icon on the video.

By the way, we store all our videos on YouTube and you can see the full list of videos in the TapBookAuthor YouTube channel and for the HOWTO videos we also have a page that lists them all in progress of being completed.

If you have questions above the feature above or suggestions about new videos topics we should cover, be sure to let us know.

How-to video: Using layers

In our series of how-to videos, we will today feature a video that shows how you can use layers – or “object categories” as the slightly engineering minded people at our company like to refer to them (there is a reason, but you might not need to know – we’ll get back to more advanced use of them later). You’ll find the video embedded below.

The layers lets you easily turn on and off visibility of sets of objects in the authoring tool, allowing you to focus on what you are doing at the moment. We’ll be back with another how-to video in less than a week. Please check back!

If you have questions above the feature shown above or suggestions about new videos topics we should cover, don’t hesitate letting us know.

How-to video: Showing the links between objects

In our series of how-to videos, we will today show how you can see the links between objects in your scene. Have a look below to see how this works.

You will see links between objects such as where to tap to play a particular sound or video. The color codes are assigned randomly and does not have any meaning apart from showing which objects belong together. If you have a very crowded scene, you can use the layers functionality (covered in a later video) in combination with this feature to see links between objects in the currently active layer.

If you have questions above the feature above or suggestions about new videos topics we should cover, be sure to let us know.

Monetization strategies for ebooks and book-apps

This post may come across as pretty basic, but clients often ask me about this – so I thought I’d try to write a short overview. Even if nobody else does, at least I can refer to it when someone asks!

So, without further ado, let’s look at a few categories of ways of earning from apps as well as ebooks.

So, this model sounds very simple – and it can be. But as the saying goes, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Publishers delivering their apps for free might get paid by creating value for other products (maybe they sell a paper book in the same series?) or maybe they are looking at an ad-based model, either directly or indirectly. Or maybe it is just seen as general marketing or even market research for a later product. Learning about potential customers is one way to get paid.

Paid app/content
This is the classical “hand me the hot dog and I’ll hand you the money”-scenario. Or rather, tap in your app store of choice, download the content such as app or ebook and charge my credit card as smoothly as possible.

This is a straightforward option. The customer might see the fact that he has to pay before knowing exactly what he is getting as a hurdle. Also, all major app stores charge a fee for selling your app or content this way. This can often be somewhere around 30 percent.

Subscription or paid service
A monthly subscription is an increasingly common way to get paid. The end user often pay a fee to access a library of content of some sort. Sometimes the content is the actual core service (ala Spotify), other times you can have an app as part of a larger offering (ala Dropbox).

The business model is ideal, for the seller, when the usage patterns are like my subscription at the local gym: Paid on time, seldomly used.

Try before you buy was once pretty popular and will fall into the freemium (“free with premium”) category, but more commonly the freemium model involves a taster for free, but a requirement to pay to get the full version. The limitations on the free version vary a lot by type of content, but let’s look at few examples:

– giving away the first chapter of an ebook for free, but doing a traditional per-item pricing on the full ebook
– not charging the first month of a subscription service
– adding additional features by upgrading
– using in-app-purchase to purchase additional titles in a bookshelf app

For ebooks in particular, in addition to the model – choosing the particular channel (as well as technical format, which sometimes is dedicated by the channel, but that might be the topic of another post later) also becomes an important decision to make. Channels include, but are by no means not limited to, the ones we go through quickly below with a few keywords on each.

Amazon: Major ebook player, so far no huge success with its own (Android-based) app store. Huge in US and UK, #1 also many places in the rest of Europe. Marginal in large parts of Asia.

Google: Niche for ebooks, but very strong app store in Google Play. Relatively less willingness to pay for content among Android users, but fast growing user base in many (all?) markets. Huge potential.

Apple: Still the strongest App Store ecosystem for monetization, likely a number two in many markets with their ebooks offering (iBookstore). Relatively closed, but very smooth experience for the end user.

Online bookstores: Many online bookstores also sell ebooks. In some markets they are also operating shared distribution services, so that you can buy in any online bookstore and synchronize to the same app without manually moving files around. Norwegian Bokbasen (linked page in Norwegian) is one example of this type of common service.

Subscription services: Many subscription services start popping up, both for niches and larger general segments. Examples include Safari, Scribd, Oyster, Storytel (popular Nordic initiative primarily for audio books, but also for ebooks), Epic, etc. — even Amazon is doing one. This will be interesting to watch, also from an economic point of view. As far as we know, some of these aggregators are even letting the publishers still sell single titles and taking the risk of offering fixed price to the end user. That is likely to work better with mass adoption than with current specially interested super readers.

If you have comment/correction/additions to this list, let me know and I will be happy to discuss and update my list. The relative importance of the channels also vary quite a bit by geography.

Did you think I would write an entire blog post not mentioning our product? Of course not! But I’ll be brief: We support all of these models with our tool and supporting platforms, and in many cases the right choice for your content will be to combine several formats and channels. Feel free to reach out if you want to know more.