Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Blloon App Review; Netflix for Books

A few weeks ago I saw an advert on Twitter for an app called 'Blloon'. I very rarely read or even notice these adverts as I scroll through posts looking for the latest and greatest updates from my little Twitter family, but the strapline really stopped me mid-scroll: "All-you-can-read on your iPhone & iPad. Over 700,000 top books for just £7.99 a month".


I decided to have a look at the Blloon website to see what sort of titles they had in their portfolio of books. I expected a few re-worked, old Shakespeare novels along with a whole bunch of unknown and uninteresting authors, much like the Free section of iBooks or the Google Play Book Store. What I found was an astounding collection of beautiful novels written by known authors, a huge number of them being very recent releases. I found books by Matt Haig and Marion Coutts. I found The Life of Pi by Yann Martel and The Moaning of Life by Karl Pilkington. I found Death of the Demon by Anne Holt and Finding Me by Michelle Knight.

I found books on that app that were on my Amazon Wishlist. It almost seemed too good to be true. I decided to offer Björn Schefzyk, Blloon Co-Founder, an interview to get the lowdown on an app that I can see descending gently into our bedtime routines...

Björn Schefzyk, a Bio: I studied Digital Media, which included business, design, plus some software development and was very project-focussed. After that I spent 8 years working in a design agency starting as an intern all the way to a VP with revenue and profit responsibility, most of it in sunny California. Last year I decided to come back to Berlin to join my co-founders in starting Blloon. It's exciting to work on a startup that is improving something you love, reading books in my case.
 

Sian: How would you describe Blloon?

Bjorn: It's an all-you-can-read book app for iPhone and iPad. People call it the "Netflix for books".

Sian: Where did the idea for Blloon come from?

Bjorn: We all love books but it felt so cumbersome to discover and buy new books. I used to browse around on Goodreads until I found a new book, then go to Amazon.com and decide if it's worth buying, then download it to my Kindle. I love my Kindle, but it was cumbersome to always carry another device with me. Since iPhones have bigger screens now with amazing resolution and quality, I think reading on an iPhone 6 is actually quite nice.  
With Blloon, we want to make all of this much easier. You decide once to download Blloon and subscribe, and then you can browse, discover and read as many books as you want to, all in one gorgeous app. With beautiful typography and colour themes that adjust to the time of day and light conditions.

Sian: How do you source the latest and greatest titles?

Bjorn: We're working with large and indie publishers. We have a small team of editors who are picking great new titles and are featuring them in the app, together with our community of readers. We also want to work directly with self-publishing authors in the future.

Sian: What are you reading right now?

Bjorn: I'm reading the New York Trilogy by Paul Auster at the moment. I'm almost through and super curious if and how the 3 storylines will come together at the end. 

Sian: What can we expect from Blloon in the next 6 months?

Bjorn: Definitely more titles. And maybe a launch in the US, though there are no concrete plans for that yet. Today we're launching a new quotes sharing feature. You can highlight any passage in the app and we will create a beautiful graphic with the copy that you can share anywhere.

Sian: Are there any plans to expand into publishing (i.e. have authors submit content to you to review and publish, in the same way that Netflix has started creating their own content)?

Bjorn: In the long-term we would love to work directly with authors. But we also appreciate the great work that the publishers are doing. There will probably be authors that work with publishers in the future and some that self-publish. The books space will see some interesting development over the next decade. Blloon is one of them :)
 
Sian: What has been the highlight of the Blloon journey so far?

Bjorn: Reading tweets like this when I check my iPhone in the morning:

 
 
I have been a Blloon user for nearly a month. In fact, my free introductory month is about to draw to a halt, but there is no way that I won't be continuing on with my subscription. For the first time in years I find myself reading on the train, on my lunch breaks and in the coffee queue. I've read 2 books this month ("Wild" by Cheryl Strayed and "Natural Born Heroes" by Christopher McDougall) which would have cost me £16.50 on Amazon UK but instead I have read them completely at my leisure for free all thanks for the Blloon free introductory month offer. It's really very easy to consume your £7.99 worth of 'book' in any given month, especially when there is such a breathtaking catalogue of books to choose from.

The app itself is gorgeous and very intuitive. You can customise the font size to suit your eyesight. You can switch between day and night mode to allow the app to customise the appearance of the page depending on the time of day and level of light, or you can leave that setting on auto and let the app do it all for you. You can read multiple books at once; the app will remember where you left off (or dozed off!).

Gone are the days of the expensive holiday book haul in Heathrow before every family holiday. Gone are the days of waiting for your books to turn up on the doormat days after you had the inclination to read one.
I am pleased to say that Blloon is nothing but a delightfully simple method of consuming literature in a way that fits into our lives as commuters and tech-addicts; I am yet to discover the catch.

Blloon are offering a free month subscription to new users, click here to get your literary fix: https://my.blloon.com/signup
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