The Novel Always Rings Twice – Books on Mobile Phones

book-on-the-iphoneMobile phones are now emerging as a viable distribution channel for publishers.  In this respect, the international publishing community is far ahead of their US counterpartsAccording to a recent post on TechCrunch, in Japan, half of the top selling works of fiction in 2007 were composed for reading on cell phones (keitai shousetsu) rather than in print form.  This is opening up new opportunities for authors and publishers to reach a wider audience without necessarily going through the often slow moving bookstore channel.  

In some ways this is not surprizing; there are many factors driving this trend.  First, is the universality cell phone usage.  For example:

  • 75% of adults and 90% of college students have mobile phones
  • 1 in 8 homes no longer have a landline phone
  • 62% of subscribers use text messaging regularly
  • 80% of world is covered by mobile networks

Second is mobile phone technology.  Current generation mobile phones now come equipped with applications to download music, video and photos, so the leap to e-books was a small one.  A number of third party providers now supply reader software for cell phones.  And there are popular freeware applications such as Stanza for the iPhone.  About half a million people in more than 50 countries have downloaded Stanza (see demo video below).


google-book-searchA third factor is a widening availability of a content in e-book format.  The recent Google settlement with the book publishing industrypotentially opens the door to a wide range of works.  Neill Denny, editor of The Bookseller, a trade publication based in London, wrote that the agreement has possibly created

. . . the largest bookshop in the world has been built, even if it is not quite open for business yet.

 Google’s Book Search program has scanned thousands of books and made them available to be searched on the Internet.  Under the agreement, Google will share any revenue from online sales with publishers and authors.   In the future, Google may become both a powerful book advertising and sales venue.


In some markets, like textbooks, the experimentation with mobile phone book content is well underway.  This is helping schools manage the expense of print textbooks in a time of greater budget austerity for educaitonal institutions and families.  Libraries are becoming simlarly inclined to look at mobile formats for books.

millenials-using-cell-phonesThe fourth factor is simply the fact that Millenials and the generations that follow them will expect to access books – like they now access other forms of entertainment – via their mobile devices.  

 The half life of technology predictions is short in our fast paced world.  But if the trends discussed above continue, books delivered to mobile phones will become a bigger part of the book publishing landscape.

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One Response to The Novel Always Rings Twice – Books on Mobile Phones

  1. Tee Morris says:

    Being someone who has just hit the iTunes store, it is very, very cool how my book is now available as an iPhone app. Right now, The Case of the Singing Sword is the only book available, but in April its sequel The Case of the Pitcher’s Pendant (both Billibub Baddings Mysteries) will be made available. I partnered up with Pip Ballantine and we’re giving it a whirl. To be on the cusp of the next wave is something very exciting.

    And yes, it is also very cool to have your book available as an iPhone app. 🙂

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