App Review: Will India's new literature app outshine its competition?

Will India’s new literature app outshine its competition? mid-day gives it a whirl

Joseph Hunt, a relatively unknown English writer of horror, fantasy and romance (a very prolific man, obviously) recently had this interesting thing to say on Twitter: ‘A barista spends three minutes making you a $5 coffee, you tip them. A writer spends a year writing a book, you complain that $4.99 is too high.’ It is a tricky thing, this notion of what one ought to pay a writer, and it is a thought I held on to while installing Juggernaut, the much publicised application that will supposedly revolutionise the world of Indian publishing.

The app is quick to install and offers fairly decent user experience
The app is quick to install and offers fairly decent user experience

At 11.14 MB, it didn’t occupy much space on my Android phone at all, which made for a good start. I couldn’t test it on the Apple store because the iOS app isn’t ready yet. My first impressions were good — quick install, minor bugs that will obviously be ironed out soon, neat interface and fairly decent user experience. Having said that, I also knew that something as easy to tweak as the app’s UI wouldn’t make or break it for me. The only thing that mattered was how interesting the books were.

Rujuta Diwekar’s Indian Super Foods is also available
Rujuta Diwekar’s Indian Super Foods is also available

I was offered a free Book of the Day (Don’t Fall In Love by Vandana Shanker), and then encouraged to browse. I passed on Sunny Leone’s stories and a piece on Indian superfoods by Rujuta Diwekar, choosing to check out curated sections like ‘Short Reads’ and ‘Long Commute’ instead. The former included short stories, an Angry Birds picture book and the odd essay or two, while other sections like ‘Bathroom Reads’, ‘Night Reads’ and ‘Serialised Reads’ threw up a number of little-known names and titles. I found no regional literature, very little for young adults or children and a ‘Retro List’ with titles (Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess, Oscar Wilde’s The Happy Prince and Other Tales, Arthur Conan Doyle’s His Last Bow) that could easily be downloaded for free on my Kindle.

I liked the option of posing questions to the authors, but didn’t test it to see if they actually replied. What I missed was the ability to read offline, a dictionary, and the option of bookmarking, although these features will probably all appear with the next update.

I didn’t really have a problem with what was offered, to be honest, because I suspect the intention here is to get more people to discover new writers and just read a little more. I also assume the number and variety of offerings across languages will only increase, considering the app has been live for just a week or two. The payment gateway was seamless and none of the titles were forbiddingly expensive either. What I did ask myself was whether Juggernaut would tempt me away from my Kindle or Google Newsstand, keeping in mind that our reading choices are subjective. To this, my answer was an overwhelming ‘No’.

A certain Kunal Bhardwaj left this comment on the Juggernaut app store page: “‘The scent of a traveller’ — hardly 3 pages on a mobile device (not even 1 page in a normal book)... and INR 10? Not justified. [sic]” We may never know what a writer ought to be paid, after all.

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