Secrets to Successful Ebook Apps [Case Study]
Many have yet to discover that Amazon has its own App Store. Similarly, many do not know that you can actually list ebooks as apps on Apple’s App Store or Google’s Play Store. There are many decisions to make that will affect your goals significantly; the tools to use, the app stores to target, deciding between paid vs free, ads vs no-ads, etc.
As a successful case study filled with lessons learned, we are showcasing Clearer English, a series-based ebook app to teach conversational English to foreigners. Matt and John, the founders behind Clearer English, have taken a long journey to end up using Kotobee to create their educational language-learning ebook apps.
Matt and John established Clearer English in early 2015, and have been actively teaching thousands of users through their apps on the Apple, Google and Amazon app stores. They strongly believe that publishing their content to the various app stores is the best way to effectively reach as many users as possible, and it seems to be working perfectly for them.
Their apps are beautifully designed to tell stories, ask questions and engage readers in fun ways to effectively increase their linguistic skills, even on the go. So let’s ask them how they did it.
Tell us a bit about yourself and how you developed an interest in ebooks and apps.
John and I both teach English as a Foreign Language. We started Clearer English about 2 years ago because we saw that many of our students wanted to learn English on their mobile devices outside of the classroom, but often their options seemed to be limited to electronic versions of standard textbooks or repetitive grammar practice apps.
We wanted to produce something far more interactive than either of those options. We wanted to make something with videos that actually taught students something, and with quizzes that showed students how much they’d learnt.
Prior to Kotobee, did you try any other platforms or tools?
We originally started the project using iBooks Author (discontinued in 2020) from Apple. We both liked the functionality of the software and its ease of use. However, we started to realise a major flaw: the product only being available on Apple devices would seriously limit our commercial success. Also, even the Apple users we spoke to had never used the Apple Books app.
We both agreed we needed to make our product available to as many mobile users as possible, in a format they were familiar with: an app.
The other benefit of apps is that you can use a freemium or ad-based revenue model, rather than having to get people to pay up front. We opted for the ad-based revenue model and this was really easy to implement with Kotobee Author.
What advantages have you found of producing an ebook app as opposed to a standard (EPUB) ebook?
The main advantage of making an app, as opposed to an iBook, is that everyone we tell about our project instantly knows what we are talking about and where they would be able to access it. Basically, apps are mainstream.
Do you think the time is right for apps to make an impact in the educational market?
I think they already are in many ways. In several countries, ebooks are replacing traditional textbooks in schools and universities, so it’s an exciting time to be in the educational ebook/app market. Ebooks have evolved from simply being digitised versions of traditional textbooks, into engaging multimedia experiences. I guess the next step is for ebooks to evolve further and incorporate situated, and connectivist functionalities.
What mistakes have you made and what have you learned from them?
We have wasted a lot of time trying to find a development tool that can produce something we wanted. We started with Apple Books but that was not the only tool we tried before finding Kotobee Author. There are a lot of companies out there that advertise functionalities and utilities that they simply can’t deliver. Kotobee is the only software we’ve found that provides such a wide range of applications, and actually, can do what it says it can.
What interactive content did you find most effective with learners?
The most engaging content is definitely our videos. We’ve seen many students’ eyes light up when they press play. And we’ve had no problems at all with the way Kotobee Author handles videos. They’re smooth.
What process do you follow to design your content? Any special resources you found helpful?
John and I have a combined teaching experience of over 25 years, so we’ve built up a big bank of resources. However, we wanted our apps to really engage people on many levels. That’s why we created characters and a storyline for students to follow throughout the course. It took a lot of time to write scripts and create the animations, but we’re very proud of our story and we get a lot of good feedback about it.
What business models have you experimented with monetizing your apps? Which was most effective in terms of results?
Most people nowadays expect apps to be initially free. This is especially true in the ed-tech industry. Many ed-tech companies run for years and years without making a significant profit, or even an income. We think building a user base is really important, first. Then giving premium functions based on needs is the next step. That being said, with the addition of Admob capability, Kotobee users can make money from ad revenue while providing their customers with free apps. It’s really a great solution.
What methods have you used to promote your ebooks apps?
We’ve utilised social media a lot to promote our apps. We’ve built up a good, active following on Facebook and now have over 30k likes. This has allowed us to get a lot of downloads without having to pay for advertising. We’re now planning to move forward by contacting influencers such as blog writers and YouTubers, and working with them to promote our apps.
We’ve already had over 4k app downloads, which is starting to generate ad revenue. We’re really pleased with this progress.
Any plans for future improvements?
Kotobee is always releasing new and highly useful functionality. Every time we see an update, it seems to include something great that we hadn’t even thought of. So we regularly update our apps with new functionality, which keeps users coming back to our apps.
What’s your overall feedback regarding Kotobee’s capabilities and provided support
The functionality and scope of Kotobee Author are great, but something else that sets this company apart is its dedication to its customers. I never feel like I’m waiting to get a response to an email, and if I experience a problem, the Kotobee team find a solution straight away. They really are second to none.
Thank you, Matt, for your time and we hope you continue to deliver quality educational content to your users!
Do you have a success story using Kotobee? Let us know so we can write about you!
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