e-reading apps

E-book stores tend to have their apps on multiple platforms: Kindle, Nook, Kobo, etc. But the discerning e-book reader wants more features than those apps usually provide, so we start looking for third-party apps. And then we run into an issue.

Think about some of the better-regarded e-reading apps. Many of them are only on one platform. Marvin is only on iOS. Moon+ Reader, Mantano and Aldiko are only on Android. (Also, what’s with the letter “M” and e-reading apps?) It’s almost enough to make you want to buy multiple tablets. Oh wait, I do own multiple tablets…

I was curious, so I reached out to some of the app developers to ask them why. I doubt you’ll be surprised by the answers, but here they are.

Tiffany Wong from Aldiko was very helpful:

For us, the main reason is the challenge of multi-platform development that most developers face as different platforms have different code environments and UI frameworks … we are against uniform coding across platforms or simply “porting” an app to other platforms. Instead, we believe an app should be built for a particular platform from ground up and takes the maximum advantage of the tools of that platform. As we started with Android and Android has been growing tremendously in the past years, we currently focus on Android. However, we hope to bring the Aldiko Book Reader to other platforms in the future.

When I asked why they started with Android, she responded with:

Android is an open operating system, different device manufacturers can make devices based on Android, therefore, focusing on Android enables us to target a wider varieties of devices from different device manufacturers, hence potentially bigger audience.

Looking only at the smartphone space, they have a point. When they started, tablets hadn’t taken off yet, and personally I have to wonder why they haven’t made a bigger push toward the iPad, especially now that the Mini is out.

What about Marvin? Here’s what Kristian Guillaumier had to say:

A version for Android is something I’m actively looking at. However, in the short term, I’ll be releasing a version for iPhone. I’ve been getting a phenomenal amount of requests for it and I think it is an obvious next step. As a reader, I come from an eInk reader background (hence the warmth and tint controls) and underestimated how many people are interested on reading on phone-sized screens.

I think this highlights one of the issues with developers. Companies like Amazon have the resources to throw at multiple platforms for their apps. But like many big companies, they think about what’s good and easy for them. Listening to customers isn’t always a priority. The smaller developers need to listen to their customers to stay competitive. But they don’t have the resources to move to other platforms.

Which brings it back to the consumer. Support your favorite app developers so they can move to other platforms.

Or just buy lots of different phones and tablets so you’ll always have the one you need!