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On April 12, Taiwanese company Readmoo officially launched the fundraiser for their first competitor to Amazon’s wildly successful Kindle. Titled mooInk, the strikingly attractive device sold out the first limited run of 1,000 in under five hours. To satisfy demand, Readmoo quickly readied a second batch of 1,000 devices two weeks later.
Readmoo’s eReader, which is available in a beautiful bamboo style besides the more traditional black, is the latest chapter in the company’s success story and quest for making reading hip again.
With content from over 800 publishing houses, the mooInk will initially allow readers access to over 60,000 books.
Established in 2012 at a time when the average screen size of smartphones was still only 4 inches and Amazon had just launched the first-generation Kindle, Readmoo initially approached the eBook market through its smartphone app.
In the five years since then, Readmoo not only has come to offer apps for iOS and Android, but also diversified its portfolio with hardware such as the mooInk.
The introduction of the mooInk is not simply another product for Readmoo. Rather, it is a crucial milestone on its long-term roadmap. "Actually, our eBook reader is one important piece of the puzzle," the company’s CEO Pang Wen-zhen explained.
Beginning in 2013, Readmoo has published an annual eBook reading report. According to Pang, this data has allowed them to better understand consumer trends over time. "In the first year that we made the report, peak reading time was around three or four in the afternoon.
Later, we found that reading late at night has also come into the fore, often as late as 12 or 1am. Because of that, many people have told us how much they want us to make our own portable reading device."
Two years ago, when Readmoo was putting the finishing touches on their Android app, they also began contemplating the right time and manner to create their unique eBook reader. Owing to the huge demands of hardware production alone, they chose to wait until last year to begin the project in earnest.
Outside of the meeting room, Pang points to a big road map. On every picture, be visualizations of the mooInk’s exterior or its user interface, revision after revision manifests the meticulous care that Readmoo is putting into its products.
The current product has thus garnered much praise, yet Pang says that the latest version is still not the final one.
Rather, they are continuing to improve upon aspects such as the keyboard. Even after the product launch, they plan to update their design according to user feedback, since “excellent usability is our core goal.”
A look at the data also reveals that Readmoo has already accumulated a group of loyal readers that cherish the convenience the company’s offerings provide. "Our readers want to buy books online and hassle-free. They want to gain knowledge easily through mobile reading," Pang says.
Most Readmoo readers are interested in literature, the social and natural sciences, as well as books on business management. "Our readers are too diligent! We think they are seekers of truth and lovers of knowledge," Readmoo’s CEO exclaims.
However, to ensure an even better reading experience, Readmoo also actively attempts to guide readers. "I think that readers sometimes need inspiration to find the right book,” Pang argues. They thus offer categories such as popular recommendations, editor’s choice, and trending lists from which users may choose what to read next.
Interestingly enough, as Pang points out, the yearly reports also reveal that there is a relatively pronounced gender imbalance. Women account for the majority, and among them the largest category is middle-aged office workers.
Asked about the supposed competition between eBook’s and traditional print media, Pang remains optimistic. In fact, she thinks that both may actually benefit from each other. "For us, eBooks are not aimed at replacing paper. Rather, they are a great tool for marketing and can draw attention to printed media,” Pang argues and points out that “even if a publishing house promotes eBook content, that shouldn't stop it from later publishing a printed version later.”
Pang further stresses that eBooks and printed media may cater to different audiences. “It just so happens that eBooks and traditional books can have different sets of customers.” Additionally, each have their own strengths and weaknesses. “The content is not always the same. For example, eReaders use greyscale, while printed media can reproduce color photos. At the same time, digital versions can offer enhanced materials for readers."
For Pang, then, the mooInk’s success should not be seen as a challenge to traditional books. "Together, eBooks and printed books can share a common prosperity," she affirms. In the end, encouraging users to read is what matters most.