Thursday, July 30, 2009

Lessons from the iPhone App Store

The Kindle Review blog recently posted this excellent article on lessons we can learn from Apple's App Store. As the post notes, discoverability is one of the major problems in the App Store today. Sure, Apple provides lists of recent additions and even popular apps, but finding your way through 65K+ apps seems hopeless when you're scrolling through 5 or so at a time!

I'm an iPhone owner and I love the device. I've downloaded a few dozen apps over the past 6 months but I'm amazed at how many I miss out on. The other night at dinner a colleague mentioned a new one to me that's just what I was looking for (Fluent News). I had never heard of it but I immediately downloaded it. Word-of-mouth promotion is nice and all but it can't be the only way forward.

I'm anxious to see how this all plays out. What new promotional vehicles will develop that help improve the discovery problem? And before we look at it as just an Apple issue, think about how this applies to ebooks...

Amazon has a tried and true method for promotion and encouraging discovery. But they're only one outlet. More and more ebook storefronts are popping up every week. Then there's the self-publishing angle. How many new self-published works hit virtual shelves every month? Hundreds of thousands?

Is this an opportunity for a third-party aggregator to step in and build an uber-catalog with all sorts of bells and whistles? This isn't just bestseller lists but also community recommendations and other lists tailored for your needs and interests.

Ebook services and offerings are growing like crazy. Without an uber-catalog service we'll soon find ourselves as lost in the sea of unknown ebook choices as iPhone owners are in the sea of apps.


Aaron Pressman said...

I'll grant you that the ebook store search discovery process could be improved and I have blogged in the past about the continuing need for indie book stores to promote a wide range of otherwise under-publicized tomes (See But I find this recent spate of posts comparing ebook discovery to the problems in Apple's app store a bit exaggerated.

Books are different than apps. One great book or author can lead to another and another. Amazon already takes advantage of this chaining effect with its lists of recommendations for you and if you like this book. I've also gotten good finds out of Amazon lists and customer tags. Furthermore, because books are now multi-platform, I've often found that the best places to discover new books are reading-oriented web sites, like goodreads, for example. These social networking sites are built on the fact that book discovery has always been extremely dependent on "word of mouth," or what you might call offline social networking. It's just been much less that way for software. Still, if you follow a couple of good Apple ecosystem bloggers (like John Gruber) and more journalistic sites like Macworld and MacinTouch, you get a steady stream of app recommendations. And maybe a little more word of mouth is a good thing, too.