Flurry, a San Francisco-based mobile applications market research firm, reports a break-out increase in e-book application use on smartphones, particularly Apple’s iPhone. According to this blog posting, Flurry is tracking user sessions (privacy questions about in that statement) and found a 300 percent increase in e-book application use between April and July. The company suggests that translates into 3 million active e-book readers during July.
The methodology isn’t explained, but the firm points to another research group, Apptism, to back up its claim, albeit tangentially, saying that e-book application sales had a 14 percent share of sales in Apple’s AppStore, second only to Games sales, which were 19 percent. There is, however, no explanation about how sales are tracked and reported, something Apple has been disinclined to do in detail.
A little context, if these numbers are valid, which I think remains unproven. They suggest that smartphones are convergence devices that will contest with specialized e-readers, such as the Amazon Kindle and others. If so, the real question to look into is sales per instance of application installed. Here, I think, Kindle would wipe the floor with iPhone e-reader applications. Why? Well, sampling of applications is a typical feature of iPhone and smartphone usage. People buy phones and install lots of apps, but seldom stick with them, either uninstalling them (which is not tracked by anyone) or simply ignoring them. Also, because book titles are usually embedded in an application on smartphone platforms, at least until recently, each book purchased may be counted as an application installation, which skews the real number of installed applications.
I don’t doubt that devices that include e-reader features could easily outsell dedicated e-readers. These numbers don’t support the argument that smartphones will overwhelm e-reader devices, yet. We need per-device or per-application counts of titles sold to determine what’s really going on.
Blackboard, developer of an electronic coursework management software, has allied with Amazon and Apple to make its educational materials available on the Kindle, BlogKindle reports. Schools can install a new component, called a “building block,” to their existing Blackboard server system and begin distributing coursework to Kindle users immediately.
But Blackboard made a bigger move toward the Apple iPhone with its acquisition Tuesday of Terriblyclever Design LLC, which develops iPhone and mobile Web (e.g., for smartphones) applications for education. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the fact that the publicly traded Blackboard (NASDAQ: BBBB) invested in access to the iPhone market suggests that the company believes the shortest route to student’s attention is through a device they already have—a smartphone and, particularly, the iPhone—rather than one they need to buy, the Kindle.
“Today’s students want to do everything with their mobile devices, including managing their social, school and work lives,” Michael L. Chasen, president and CEO of Blackboard, said in a press release. “Mobile is just beginning to emerge and no one is doing more to define the space in education than Terriblyclever. The newly acquired technology provides deeper integration with an institution’s classwork and schedule than is currently possible on the Kindle. The presser says it will provide schools with:
- Navigate a school’s entire course catalog and utilize one-touch navigation to directories and maps to find out more about course professors and locations.
- Identify exact campus location using GPS, search for buildings by name or address and see photos of the building.
- Check news, schedules, and real-time scores for athletic teams and browse and receive alerts on general news articles for the institution.
- Access iTunes U, YouTube, or custom video content including course lectures.
- Find students and staff in the school directory, access calendars for special events and campus happenings and browse and share images from a school’s photo archives.
A Kindle partnership makes sense and is notable, but the fact Blackboard put money into accessing iPhones and other smartphones tells me the most expedient path to young readers appears, to Blackboard, to be through those multi-purpose devices.