Juggernaut is rolling
Juggernaut Books aims to get more Indians to read. With its beautiful app it may just succeed
Nikhil Thiyyar Delhi
Two weeks ago, when I took the Metro to Noida, the first thing I noticed as soon as I entered the coach was the number of people whose eyes were glued to the screens of their smartphones. All of them had that fully immersed look which appears on a person’s face when they are fully absorbed in something. Their eyebrows were furrowed and the earphones in their ears ensured that most of them were oblivious to their immediate surroundings replete with sweaty armpits and jostling bodies. A quick, intrusive glance at the screens around me revealed that most of them were watching movies. In this sea of smartphone addicts not a single person was reading or doing anything which resembled the act of reading.
This vignette of urban life perhaps puts in a nutshell the primary challenge that most authors and publishing houses face today. Not only does an author have to battle against other titles in the market, they also have to compete for a person’s attention amid a glut of binge-worthy content. Answer this question honestly: At the end of a hard day of work, when you have a choice between watching the latest episode of Game of Thrones and picking up an engrossing book, which would you opt for? It’s safe to predict that most people would go for the former.
There was a time when immersing yourself in a book or a lengthy article was easy. One’s mind would be caught up in the fast-paced narrative or the layered turns of the argument and hours flew by before one was aware of what the world around was up to. No more. It’s only after a page or two that one starts to get fidgety and loses the thread altogether. The next thing you know, you are watching cat videos for hours. According to a Pew Research Center report, nearly a quarter of Americans had not read a single book in the past year. As in, they hadn't cracked a paperback, fired up a Kindle, or even hit ‘Play’ on an audiobook while in the car. If you are the sort of book-lover who thinks that GIFs, Netflix and superfast internet connections have weaned away book-lovers from reading then reports like these would sound positively apocalyptic. Your anxiety would not be unfounded. Book-lovers are a rarer species now than in the 1990s when there was no internet to contend with.
The Juggernaut app:
It is against this backdrop that Juggernaut Books seeks to transform the reading culture in the country. The stated goals of the publishing company are ambitious. It aims to get more Indians to read books, write books and make books a whole lot less intimidating. The weapon of choice in this lofty quest is the Juggernaut app. The app garnered headlines when it published a set of erotic short stories written by Sunny Leone. Titled “Sweet Dreams”, the Leone’s erotica made for poor reading but ensured that the app derived critical traction in a crowded app market. On September 30, Juggernaut CEO Durga Raghunath announced the release of Juggernaut 2.0 on the play store and app market. By this point Juggernaut had spent close to two months as the number one app in the books and reference category.
Updating the app revealed that most of the changes had made it easier to navigate and use. The curated lists are hands-down the best addition that has been made to the app. A vast majority of titles has now been mapped to categories and sub-categories like short stories, classics, love, sex, romance, history and politics. What this does is ensure that sifting through an extensive list of titles has now been made easier, based on your reading interests. Also updated is the ‘Me’ section with separate lists for transactions, a wishlist and archived books. This makes for a cleaner and clutter-free experience for the app user. What adds to the aesthetics of the app is the beautiful typography. The fonts used are excellent and makes reading a veritable pleasure.
Perhaps the best feature of the app is not a feature at all. It's the content. There are a lot of homegrown authors in every category. Most of the content is tailor-made for the Indian palate.You will find books from authors like Rujuta Diwekar, Shyam Bhat, Veena Muthuraman and Abheek Barua, to name a few.
Unlike the Kindle app which has a clunky and somewhat grey interface with no colour correction, the Juggernaut one provides a smoother, if limited, reading experience.
Being a publishing company with digital at its heart, Juggernaut aims to enable users to publish stories from the app itself. How those users/ authors will be able to monetise their content remains a puzzle, though.
For an app which is relatively new in the app market, Juggernaut has done an excellent job of pleasing its core users. With a rating of 3.9 in the Google Play Store it is one of the top app downloads in the books and reference category. Although 63 percent of the users downloaded the app and started using it, only 17 percent actually read a book. Bridging the gap between these two metrics is what will decide the future of the app.
Perhaps one day I will step into a Metro coach and be surrounded by people reading a book or a short story.