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[App Fridays] Can Juggernaut Books draw the devout from ‘global juggernaut’ Amazon Kindle?

Harshith Mallya
24th Feb 2017
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Steve Jobs and Apple revolutionised the music industry in 2001 with the iPod and the brilliant marketing slogan of ‘1,000 songs in your pocket’. Then, in 2007, Amazon revolutionised the way books were consumed with the launch of Kindle. Like the iPod, one of the USPs of the Kindle was the ability to carry a thousand books in a slim e-book reader. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, had noted that the Kindle (1st generation) weighed a total 10.3 ounces."That's less than a paperback book," Bezos had said, “and it uses an ‘electronic ink’ technology to mimic paper, not a computer screen.”

Now, in 2017, while physical books are still going strong, Amazon’s Kindle and its competitors like Kobo and Nook are making deep inroads because of the inherent advantages involved, including almost ‘zero shipping time’ and a vast catalogue of e-books up on offer.

While Amazon and Amazon Kindle have a growing presence in India, Durga Raghunath and Chiki Sarkar founded Juggernaut Books in 2015. According to their website, “Juggernaut is a platform to find and read high quality, affordable books (e-books currently) and to submit your writing.” The platform currently has about 2,000 books and a network of about 1,000 authors, some of whom are first-time authors. YourStory had reached out to Juggernaut Books for additional inputs but hasn’t heard back in three days. We will update the story if and when we get a response from them.

The main focus of this story, though, is on the end-user experience offered by Juggernaut, and how it fares compared to its competitors. Here is this week’s App Friday review:


A screengrab of Juggernaut Books' website

Methodology

Apart from playing around with the Juggernaut Books app, I tried out Amazon’s Kindle app (available on Android and iOS), DailyHunt and Reliance Jio's JioMag apps (more on this later) to gain a better understanding of the digital content space. The apps were also tried on two different form factors -- a 5.5-inch smartphone and an 8-inch tablet -- to get a better feel of the user experience.

Juggernaut Books

On signing up for the first time, users are informed that Juggernaut’s USPs include:

  1. Fresh, original books and timeless classics.
  2. Ability to interact with the author and ask them questions and also review their book.

While users can browse the collection without signing in, one has to either login through Facebook or email to access any of the free books or samples, and also to make a purchase. Users are also requested to select a few genres of books based on their interest to help Juggernaut recommend relevant reads.

Juggernaut’s app has three main tabs -- Home, Categories and Shelf.

Home

This section includes a ticker at the top where a few deals and current affairs-related stories are given prime real estate. On scrolling down, users can browse through books based on categories and also see new releases, top of the charts, free books and collections, among other options.

On scrolling to the bottom, users can get a bird’s eye view of all the genres, curated collections and authors, which currently stand at 63, 35 and 1,295, respectively. An in-app gamification feature included is the ‘Authors of the Week’, to create a sense of rivalry among authors and also give readers an idea of what their peers are reading that week.

In Juggernaut’s description on Google Play, they also highlight the fact that their network of authors is diverse, ranging from India's top-selling nutritionist Rujuta Diwekar and former Pakistan Ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani, to TV writer Umera Ahmed and Bollywood actresses Rekha and Sunny Leone.

Categories

Under this section, users can browse books by 10 categories, and Juggernaut currently claims to have about 50 sub-categories, with content ranging from genres like long fiction, non-fiction, short stories and romance to self-help, fantasy, crime, humour and children’s books.

While not a very prominent category currently, those interested in the world of startups and business can find books by Sanjay Anandram,Venture Partner, Seed Fund and Advisor at iSpirt; and Shubhankar Bhattacharya from Kae Capital, as well as from publications like Fortune India and Business Standard.

While all original books come with a price tag (excluding some special launch promotions), Juggernaut lets users read classic works from authors like Arthur Conan Doyle, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens and Jane Austen for free.

‘Digital Shelf’

Akin to the ‘real world book rack’, users can find all their purchased books arranged here, with the most recent purchases showing up first. Users can also save their books offline and then remove them to free up space once they are done reading. Users can resume reading from the page they were last at, and the app also displays what percentage of the book one has finished reading.(This feature is also available on Kindle).

Another interesting feature included is the ability to gift books to a friend with a note or send it to them anonymously. Users can currently buy a book on Juggernaut by linking their credit cards or Paytm accounts, and on completing the transaction, they will find the book under ‘Shelf’.

The reading experience

Users can double tap anywhere on the screen to tweak their reading experience, from changing the background to increasing or decreasing the size of the font. Swiping right on the screen displays the table of contents, and users can swipe up or down to navigate between pages.

The reading experience is optimised across small and large screens. I found a 5.5-inch screen optimal for short-form content and simple quick reads, but preferred the larger 8-inch form factor when it came to longer reads (books listed as two hours and beyond) with more complex subject material.

Two features that stood out for me were:

1. Inbuilt backlinks: Some books had inbuilt backlinks to online publications, allowing readers to click on them and read for more context if needed. This is one area where physical books lack, with authors ending up having to give more context about the topic and in effect losing brevity and derailing train of thought for readers. This pain-point is avoided, enabling authors to be more crisp and stay to the point.


Excerpt from Shubhankar Bhattacharya's book, "VCs Are from Venus, Entrepreneurs Are from Mars"

2. Ask the author section: Readers can rate and review books and also pose questions to the author if they have a query. While not all questions may go answered (I’m still waiting for a response to a question posed to Sunny Leone), the ability to connect authors and readers in a public forum is a definite value add.

Juggernaut Books vs. Amazon Kindle vs. others

While Juggernaut Books has a respectable collection of about 2,000 books, over 1,000 authors and about 100,000 downloads on Android, these numbers are obviously behind the other ‘juggernaut’ in this space - Amazon Kindle, which has Android and iOS apps, in addition to its Kindle e-reader.

Apart from a much wider collection of genres and books, Kindle also included a monthly subscription service, Kindle Unlimited, which lets users unlock about one million books. While Juggernaut had announced its intentions to introduce a subscription feature, according to an interview with Livemint in 2016, that feature isn’t live yet.

Juggernaut, though, stands out for its quirky push notifications, timely short stories on current affairs, and curated collections, which include topics like ‘The best of Indian Business and Tech’ and ‘The budget and you’, as well as more bizarre collections like ‘Office Quickies’ and ‘Bathroom Reads’. Office Quickies aren’t quick reads for when you are in office, as I had originally assumed. They ironically come under the Not-Safe-For-Work (NSFW) category. Bathroom Reads, meanwhile, was even more bizarre. This contained nothing related to potty training or poop in any way, but rather love and supernatural stories (I’m still trying to understand the logic on this one).

While not necessarily in the same space as Juggernaut and Kindle, JioMags, an app from Reliance Jio’s suite of apps, and DailyHunt are two other interesting players that are probably looking to capture the same user base as the former two. JioMags includes digital magazines from a wide range of categories like current affairs, entertainment, technology and travel. Their entire catalogue of content is currently free for Reliance Jio users. DailyHunt, on the other hand, competes with Juggernaut because of their common focus on micropayments, with books costing as low as Rs 10 on both platforms.

Conclusion

While Amazon Kindle may have the distribution and sheer volume that no new player can compete with, smaller players like Juggernaut Books have the opportunity to capture a niche market of highly-engaged users, and also connect both upcoming and established authors to fans and readers on a more personal level.

While Amazon might not lose existing customers (who will likely stay on multiple platforms) to Juggernaut completely, it may lose the ‘crème de la crème’, the highly engaged readers who are on the lookout for a reading experience that isn’t the ‘corporate plain vanilla’ that is currently on offer.

While we also cannot discount physical books, which have a strong following even in today’s tech-savvy publishing scene, it is safe to say that it is now easier for authors to leverage digital platforms to further enhance the reach of their work and gain readers without extensive on-ground marketing efforts.

Website- Juggernaut Books

You can also download it here on Android and iOS 

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