Entitle’s Nicely Executed Embedded Web View

Jason recently published a post on Auxiliary Tabs—secondary embedded web views that you can use for integrating blogs, book recommendations and more into your white-label apps. His post reminded me that I’d been meaning to write about a particularly well executed example a white-label embedded web view: Entitle.

Many of you may have already heard about Entitle—they are one of the leaders in the hot subscription service space. Entitle’s approach is closer to the traditional book club model than it is to “all you can eat” services like Scribd and Oyster. That said, Entitle customers get to keep their ebooks; Oyster and Scribd users don’t. Entitle customers choose a monthly plan that entitles them to download two books a month for $9.99 or three books a month for $14.99.

Here’s a screen shot of the “home page” embedded web view in their iOS app:

Entitle's "Home page" embedded Web view

Subscribers can see the books they’ve already added to their collection (“Latest Cloud Books”), their wish list of books they’ve tagged, but not yet downloaded (“View Your Queued Books”) and Entitle’s recommendations of books they might be interested in (“We Think You’ll Love”). As you can see, they’ve done a great job of creating a visually rich user experience.

Another nice feature of their implemenation is the ability to sample content. The screen shot below shows the “more information” view for a currently selected title.

Entitle More Information View

Again they’ve used the opportunity to promote related titles that might be of interest to the subscriber. When you click on the Sample icon you see the following:

Entitle's web based Sample browser

It’s a preview of the book delivered through the same embedded web view.

Nicely done Entitle!

– Cliff

White-Label App Tips & Tricks: The Auxiliary Tab

In November, we rolled out a redesign of Bluefire Reader for iOS, and later this year we will be rolling out a similar redesign of our Android app that will use Android 4.x design elements and styling to deliver an app that will light up in users’ hands. Our free versions of Bluefire Reader are the basis for our white-label apps. We call the free versions our “reference apps.”

With the update to our iOS reference app we’re included the ability for our white-label partners to add a fourth tab to their apps. That fourth tab, or Auxiliary Tab as we’ve been calling it, allows our partners to set up a second web view from inside the app that can be used for any purpose that they’d like – as long as it doesn’t run afoul of Apple’s rules regarding in-app purchasing!

We’ve received quite a few questions about the Auxiliary Tab from partners who weren’t sure just what to do with it, so I thought I’d share some of the ideas that we’ve had on how to get the most out of this new feature.

Let’s start with what we did with Bluefire Reader. We used the Get Books web tab in our app as a place where users can download free ebooks from our friends at Feedbooks. In that pane we consume an OPDS feed from Feedbooks that gives access to public domain  ebooks and free ebooks that can be downloaded directly into the app. We feel that is a great way to demonstrate some of the app’s functionality while also making available classic literature to our users.

We used the Auxiliary Tab in Bluefire Reader to share information about our company, providing marketing and other insights into Bluefire’s business and partners. We’ve found this space to be a valuable way of marketing our company in a relatively subtle way.

Of course, partners can use these tabs for other similar strategies. Most of our partners have some sort of credential-based “cloud shelf” in the Get Books tab, and we strongly recommend that they stay with that for that tab. But there are so many possible options for the fourth tab. Obviously you can offer free ebooks, or can use the tab for marketing purposes as we do. Here are some other options that we recommend our partners consider.

Billboard page: A page that features cover images and blurbs about new books can be a useful way of showing the type of content available in your store as long as you don’t give users the option to buy books from within that tab.

Blog: If you have a blog on your site that is used to promote your products, the Auxiliary  Tab is an ideal place to feature that. This is a nice way to share information on new ebooks that you’re promoting or let readers know details about your company’s operations. As long as there are no calls to action in this tab, and no pricing information for books, a blog can be a nice fit for many of our partners.

FAQ/User Guide: The Auxiliary Tab is an ideal place to post an FAQ or User Guide to address user questions about your app or store. It can be used as a supplement to your existing ePub-formatted User Guide that ships with the app or can take the place of that book.

Free or sample books feed: If you’d like to offer users the chance to download free samplers from books, you can include a browsable view into that list from the Auxiliary Tab. This is an ideal way to tease content while avoiding soliciting user purchases. Any sample books included in this tab must avoid pricing information or a call to action to download.

Localized webpage: If your website is available in multiple languages, you can deliver one language in the main Web View tab and another in the Auxiliary Tab.

Recommended reading: You can highlight books that you feel are especially notable or popular that are available through your store.

Author interviews or bonus content: Offer multimedia content relevant to the books you sell such as author interviews, videos, trailers or other similar content.

Really, there is no limit to the choices you can make. We encourage you to think creatively, brainstorm ideas and consider the best way to maximize the perceptions that users will have of your apps. We’re always available if you’d like to bounce your ideas off of us.

We’re excited to see what our partners come up with.

– Jason

 

Bluefire Elected to the Board of the Readium Foundation

The Readium Foundation has just announced the results of its first board election and we are delighted to share the news that Micah Bowers (CEO of Bluefire) has been elected as a founding board member! The other new board members include:

  • Pierre Danet – Hachette Livre
  • Jim Dovey – Independent
  • James English – New York Public Library
  • Bente Franck-Saetervoll – Bokbasen
  • Hadrien Gardeur – Feedbooks
  • Bill McCoy – IDPF

Congratulations to all—and thanks for your commitment to making the Readium Foundation a success!

To learn more about the Readium Foundation, please visit Readium.org.

To learn more about Bluefire’s support for the Readium ePUB 3 Native Code project click here.

– Cliff

Winter 2014 Update

We’ve closed the book on 2013, which means that it’s time for our annual recap post and update on our plans for the year ahead.

2013 Recap

Bluefire’s 2013 is best summed up by one word: Investment. We completely rewrote our iOS app. We continued to enhance our Android app and began our Android redesign. We launched our Cloud Services platform. We made significant progress on our Windows app and on the integration of ePUB 3 into our application platform. Whew!

iOS

Bluefire Reader was completely redesigned for iOS 7. The new app fully integrates the design conventions and underlying technologies of iOS 7, making Bluefire Reader for iOS cleaner, faster and easier to use than ever.

We also added a number of new features to the app in 2013, including:

  • Library Search (by Title, Author, Publisher and file type)
  • A streamlined Collections workflow
  • Cover View for iPhone and iPod touch
  • Our enhanced image viewer that makes it easy to zoom in on, print and share embedded images in ePUB books (as publisher permissions allow)
  • Improved management of loaned library books
  • A “Back” button for easier navigation back from footnotes and other internal links
  • Support for our Page Location and Core Analytics Cloud Services

Android

We added several new features to our Android app in 2013 and early 2014, including:

  • Our enhanced image viewer that makes it easy to zoom in on, print and share embedded images in ePUB books (as publisher permissions allow)
  • Improved management of loaned library books
  • Support for our Page Location and Core Analytics Cloud Services

We also began our Android redesign and rewrite. Our new Android app will conform to the latest Android design guidelines and will deliver improved stability and performance.

Cloud Services

We are proud to report that we’ve released our Page Location and Core Analytics cloud services. These two services are the first pillars in our Cloud Services platform. The latest versions of Bluefire Reader for iOS and Android support the services. We are rolling out Page Location and Core Analytics to a small number of white-label lighthouse customers and will offer them to all of our white-label customers in a few weeks.

Windows

We previewed Bluefire Reader for Windows at the Frankfurt Book Fair and Digital Book World, and will release the reference app this spring. Bluefire Reader for Windows will enable you to integrate your store into a full featured, ACS enabled reading app that runs on Windows XP, Windows 7, and Windows 8.

ePUB 3

We are all in on ePUB 3! As you may already know, we helped found the Readium Foundation and provided initial financial support for the native code renderer project. We’ve continued to invest significant development resources in the native code project and have provided design support for Readium the web client. We are spearheading the integration of the Readium renderer into the iOS host application framework. And that’s just the work on ePUB 3that we can talk about at this time!

Looking Ahead to 2014

In 2014 we will be focused on 4 primary areas of development:

  1. Integration of ePUB 3 support into our white label application platform – ePUB 3 is the future, but like most forward looking investments, the payoff will take time. We are actively working on integrating support for ePUB 3 into all of our reference apps. We hope to roll out ePUB 3 support to our white-label customers this summer.
  2. Update of our Android app – We are continuing our work on our Android app refresh and hope to release the reference app this spring.
  3. Rollout of our Windows app – We are putting the finishing touches on our first release of our Windows app. We hope to release the reference app in this spring.
  4. Enhancement of our Cloud Services platform – We are in the process of rolling out Sync and Core Analytics to our first lighthouse white-label customers. We will be rolling out these services to interested white-label customers over the next few months. We are also working on an API for the analytics platform. We are still working on the specs, but hope to make this feature available to interested white-label licensees later this year.

As our plans solidify we will provide updates with more granular details.

With thanks to our customers and users around the world for a great 2013, and high hopes for 2014!

The Team at Bluefire

A Little Ketchup…

We’ve been hard at work for the past few months. So busy in fact that we’ve neglected to post! So before we head off for the long holiday weekend here are a few tasty updates.

Recent releases

We’ve issued a number of updates over the summer—mostly performance updates and bug fixes. Our latest versions are:

  • Bluefire Reader for iOS, version 1.9.7
  • Bluefire Reader for Android, version 1.5.8

Development update

We have a number of big development projects underway.

  • We’re on track to release our reading location synchronization and analytics services this fall. Blame this project for our long silence—we’ve been busy reading, syncing, checking stats and tweaking reports. It’s going to be cool!
  • We’re also making good headway on our ePUB 3 enabled app updates. Our Readium team-members are cranking out code and we’re all busy integrating and testing.

Look for more details on these two initiatives and more (including our iOS 7 release) in the next few weeks.

Frankfurt Book Fair

We will be exhibiting at the Frankfurt Book Fair in October. If you’re planning on attending please stop by. We’re in Hall 8, L154.

Micah will be speaking on new developments in DRM at the Publisher’s Launch conference on Tuesday, October 8th. And, we’re hosting two panels on ePUB 3 in the Digital Zone during the show.

The first panel will be held on Wednesday, October 9th at 10:30 AM. It’s an ePUB 3 update for publishers. You’ll hear a progress report on the rollout of ePUB 3 across the publishing industry and learn how publishers are transitioning to ePUB 3. The panel features Bill McCoy of the IDPF and Leslie Hulse from HarperCollins Publishers.

The second panel will be held on Thursday, October 10th at 4:00 PM. The subject is ePUB 3 reading applications. You’ll hear from Micah and Jean-Marie Geffroy, President of Montano SAS. They’ll be talking about the Readium project and demoing ePUB 3 enabled apps.

Please stop by!

Have a great holiday weekend. We promise to post more frequently in the weeks and months to come!

– Cliff

Zoom In On the Latest Versions of Bluefire Reader

We’ve updated our apps: Bluefire Reader for iOS 1.9.6 and Bluefire Reader for Android 1.5.5 are available for download.

The latest version of our iOS app includes our powerful new image viewer that makes it easy to zoom in on embedded images in ePUB books. Your can even rotate the images—a big help when you’re working with maps. We’ve also added a new line spacing setting. You’ll find a number of other user interface refinements and (as always) bug fixes.

The latest version of our Android app is a performance and stability release.

Stay tuned: more to come!

– Cliff

 

Come See Us at the IDPF Digital Book Conference and BEA

Heading to New York for the IDPF Digital Book Conference and Book Expo America? Attend our session on reading systems and visit our booth!

Micah will be speaking in the “Reading Systems: Adding Value vs. Content Becoming Enhanced” session on Thursday, May 30th at 11:10 AM. Here’s a description of the session:

There’s a natural tug-of-war between publishers, who want enhanced and customized presentation of specific titles, and reading systems , who want to deliver enhanced experiences that work consistently across multiple titles. And users of course have their own needs and preferences. As titles are increasingly enhanced, how will reading systems differentiate and add value? What will be the drivers of product and content success?

Micah Bowers (Bluefire), Roger Webster (B&N), Steve Vinter (Google), Matt MacInnis (Inkling)

Bluefire will be exhibiting in the Digital Zone in booth 2071C. 

We look forward to seeing you there!

– Cliff

Announcing the Readium Foundation and the Readium EPUB 3 SDK Project

As you may already know, today marks the public announcement of the Readium Foundation and the Readium EPUB 3 SDK project. Bluefire has made a big investment in this initiative, supplying executive leadership, development resources, and funding. We want to share our thoughts on why the work we’re doing as part of the Readium Foundation is so important—both to the future of Bluefire and to the future of digital publishing.

EPUB 3 is the expression of a dream. It embodies the publishing industry’s hopes for rich, interactive books of all kinds that are widely distributed and easily read on a broad range of PCs and mobile devices. But EPUB 3 will remain a dream without a robust, consistent rendering experience that works across a multitude of vendor and device platforms. As Bluefire progressed in its independent development of our EPUB 3 renderer it became clear to us that the EPUB 3 spec is open to a considerable amount of interpretation—and that developing a great EPUB 3 rendering engine would require substantial ongoing investment. So we started talking to and meeting with other interested industry players. What evolved was a small working group and a new dream: a collaborative project focused on the development of a robust, open source EPUB 3 rendering engine that each of us, and others in the industry, could use as the foundation for commercial-grade reading systems. The dream is now on its way to becoming a reality.

Publishers need to know that the books they release look great and function as intended no matter which reading application is being used—a Bluefire-powered application or an app from a developer or retailer from anywhere around the world. It’s clear that critical mass matters in ebook technologies. The challenge for the incredibly diverse range of digital publishers and retailers is achieving critical mass. Working together is a great start. We don’t expect the Readium open source engine to be a silver bullet, and it is unrealistic to think that every ebook platform in the world will utilize this engine. However, we do believe that the use of a common, shared rendering engine across a wide spectrum of large and small companies will be an important step forward—similar to the manner in which Webkit has facilitated consistency in HTML5 rendering across browsers, even in those that don’t utilize Webkit.

Bluefire has worked along-side the other initial founders of the Readium Foundation to bring this initiative to life. We will be working even harder moving forward to bring it to fruition. We will also be integrating the Readium EPUB 3 SDK with the Adobe Reader Mobile SDK so that our publisher, retail and library customers can use Bluefire-powered apps to distribute EPUB 3 content that leverages the industry-standard Adobe Content Server rights management system.

We know that many of you are hungry for details about when we will be rolling out our next generation apps, features, and pricing. We will share this information as the development effort progresses in the months ahead. Today, we’re celebrating: our industry has come together in an unprecedented way to help realize a vision of the future that creates and sustains opportunity for all—especially for readers.

– Micah

Visit Us At the London Book Fair (April 16 – 18)

We will be heading to the U.K. again in April for the London Book Fair (April 16 – 18 at Earls Court). Contact us to setup a meeting or drop by our stand (V600). We will also be giving two talks on tools for publishers who want to sell direct to consumers. The talks are   in Digital Theatre 2 at 2:00 PM on Monday, April 16th and Tuesday, April 17th. See you there!

– Cliff

A Little Love for Libraries

Bluefire Reader 1.94 is now available in the iTunes App Store. It’s a little box of sweets for library patrons, with improved management of loaned library books (including the display of upcoming expiration dates and loan status in the Library view) and the option to sort your books by expiration date. Check it out!

– Cliff