Is a branded mobile app a step too far for book publishers?

I wrote a short piece for The Conversation (a website that disseminates academic research and provides analysis of news by academic researcher on) on the rationale behind Mills & Boon’s move into mobile apps.

Mills & Boon, like other book publishers, has been dramatically impacted by digital technology and the associated changes in consumer behaviour, such as the move from physical to electronic books. Unlike other publishers, though, Mills & Boon has embraced and quickly adapted to these changes, for instance setting up their own e-commerce platform, or selling books and e-books through Amazon and its e-reading platform Kindle. Earlier this year, Mills & Boon went one step further and launched their own mobile reading app.


In this article I review the pros and cons of launching a branded mobile app, and discuss whether it is possible for other publishers to do the same.


Do you prefer to buy your e-books from a third party like Amazon, or do / would you like to buy directly from the publisher?

2 thoughts on “Is a branded mobile app a step too far for book publishers?

  1. Very interesting development. First of all, I’d like to applaud Mills & Boon for embracing new technologies to find ways to improve their performance. When I was considering entering the publishing business (I graduated from a specialised applied sciences university), I eventually didn’t, because the profession was too conservative (at that time, many thought, as they still too often seem to do, that the internet is a bad thing). I believe it is important to keep trying to use new technologies and developments in different ways to find out which is the best to make your business optimally profitable. Mills & Boon seem to do just that.
    Having said this, I’m not completely sure the dedicated app is the right way to go. Looking at it from the consumer perspective: there are very limited occasions that I buy a book because it’s published by a certain publishing house. I buy books (yes, books, not ebooks, yet) because I’m interested in the topic, I like the author, it won a prize (the Booker seems to be a great indicator for me), it was recommended by a friend; those sorts of reasons. Not because the book was published by a certain publisher. I don’t think that I would use that app. In general I would, if I were a publisher, focus more on sites like Goodreads, Anobii etcetera.
    Unless. Wait, let me look up Mills & Boon first.

    Forget what I said before. Now that I know they are an imprint of Harlequin, I’d say they are in one of the few sections of the publishing industries where it doesn’t really matter who the author or topic is, or whether the book won a prize. This is more like magazine publishing, this is about the publisher. Then, a branded app is great. Keep them in your series, don’t let them switch to the competition (is there any), or a competitive genre (chick lit, maybe). Yes. Lock those readers in! Maybe bring to market a special ereader, too. Seriously, though, for these type of books, this is certainly a way to go. I’m curious whether they are successful with it, and how their competition is going to react.


    1. Ah… love how you composed the reply 🙂

      Mills & Boon really is in a special corner of the market – it’s not just that they dominate the genre; it’s also that it seems to be highly addictive, with readers swiftly acquiring a new title as soon as they finish the last one.

      The only other genre that might be able to do is textbooks. Or cookbooks.


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