|Target Users||Fiction readers|
|Nature of the initiative||Private|
The DipIn mobile app is a story comparison tool currently in development due for closed beta testing in late summer 2015. It offers the reader two short text samples from the beginning of two different novels. The user reads both and chooses the one he likes best to learn more about that story. As the reader makes choices, the app learns about his taste to offer more appropriate story selections. If a reader likes a book he is reading, he can download samples or buy the book.
Development will culminate in a trial primarily targeting casual readers with a comparison sample of regular readers.
With the e-book market attracting mainly regular readers the challenge asks the question: can a fresh approach to mobile increase the reading population for digital formats? ‘We think we’ve got hold of the people who read a great deal. What we’d love to do with this challenge is get somebody who doesn’t read a lot who’s got a mobile who comes in to reading [as a result of it]’. DipIn won an IC Tomorrow Books on the Move Contest for funding and partnership with the Publishers Association. Richard Mollet of The PA described the challenge as a way to find a new service ‘to capture the imagination of people who perhaps don’t read a great deal or perhaps don’t read at all and… be encouraged to read books.’
DipIn offers specific features targeted at changing the habits of casual readers and their attitudes to reading.
Makes reading fun again
Game-like features – The right story is intrinsically entertaining to a reader. But the right book is not always the first one the reader picks up after a hiatus. DipIn aims to make finding the right story fun too with game-like features. These include random elements (new stories are served with some randomness), user-directedness (the satisfying power to pass judgement on what you are reading and move on to something else that catches the eye) and a sense of achievement (e.g. by choosing a story you ‘unlock’ book title and author details, and the option to download). These are strong added-value features to coax back readers who lapsed; we are currently configuring the best balance of these elements.
Gives lapsed or new readers a personalised relationship to reading and books
Analysis of reading habits – The DipIn app will require users to register (for free) to get full benefits. The profile’s primary function is to allow the reader to log preferences and build up a picture of their reading tastes (e.g. You seem to prefer crime fiction but also like to explore classic novels from the 20th century. You don’t seem to like…). DipIn is currently testing the most effective ways to categorise, display and feedback information to the user.
Personalisation of choices - The texts begin to reflect the tastes of the reader offering them more specialised content (e.g. someone who prefers romance and does not choose pre-twentieth-century fiction will be served more of the former and less of the latter).
Makes the process of starting to read easier
Manageable sample presention – The process of reading tiny nuggets of story requires little initial commitment and knowledge of books, and gratification is instant – if a text fails to please they can immediately move on to something else; i.e. ‘this is not a failed expedition into the realm of reading, this is part of the game’.
Easy purchasing stream – Once users find something they like, they can download samples or buy online, or they can use it as a reference when they visit bookshops.
The role of technology
The project brings a number of familiar modern languages and technologies together to crack the problem of mining meaningful preferences from comparison rather than marking (e.g. out of five) as is commonly used in ranking media online.
In particular DipIn is developing:
- The DipIn application – which includes the comparison interface and related screens (mobile app languages and rapid app development tools);
- An aggregation engine – which a) takes existing selections of publisher story books (e.g. ePubs and corresponding bibliographic data) to create bespoke content packages for users; b) calculates user requirements: serves packages as relevant comparisons to the user, based on their tastes (XML data mining, database management technologies);
- Content management system - for easy importing, shortening and storing of catalogue content in the system (Django/Python, database management)
As stated above, DipIn is due to perform a large-scale test of the app mid-summer 2015 and await the outcome of these tests.
However, to date the app has been tested with a number of small groups. Appetite for the app and what it does/will offer appears strong. Most people identify choosing a new book as difficult, with lapsed and reluctant readers particularly citing the lack of a good system of recommendation as a block on the path back to reading (although most readers cite recommendation engines based on purchase history as useful). DipIn has so far tested well as a way of removing this block for reluctant readers, though unsurprisingly it appeals strongly to avid readers too.