When I released my iPad PDF reader Folio Caseon Thursday, I received a lot of praise for it. People found it to be beautiful, easy to use, even calling it the most elegant solution currently available on the iPad. Since Folio Case was focusing on a very pleasant reading experience, I never regarded the most downloaded PDF readers as my main competition - the differences were just too big, since those apps usually focus on a huge amount of features and lagged behind in user experience.
However, Apple today released an update to iBooks, their fantastic eBook reader software from which Folio Case takes quite a bit of inspiration. iBooks is a direct competitor because it plays in the same league as Folio Case, if not actually higher. It has a reduced feature set, but a beautiful reading experience. The biggest problem here for me is, obviously, that iBooks is free while Folio Case is priced at $5.99 - and they say you just cannot compete with free. I cannot say I planned for this to happen, but I'll likely find out soon if it is possible to sustain a competitor to iBooks. The least I can do is try to keep my app from finding its untimely death at the bottom of the App Store charts.
So what's my plan of action here? Fortunately, Folio Case had its origin as a fun little project on the side which just started because I didn't like any of the available PDF readers out there, and it seems others didn't either. That means that it's easier for me to keep this app going than it would be for someone who depends on the income from their App Store sales. Speaking of sales, I thought I'd share some sales numbers here to illustrate my point:
Thursday, June 18 2010: 85 sales
Friday, June 19 2010: 100 sales
Saturday, June 20 2010: 123 sales
Sunday, June 21 2010: 76 sales
That's 384 sales in total since Folio Case was approved for sale in the App Store, or about € 1,180 in revenue for me after Apple's cut and before taxes. Not bad for four days of sales, but I don't expect these to stay at this level at all, for two reasons. First, there's now pretty good competition which is free. Second, this was the launch, which had quite a bit of buzz on Twitter and was bound to have higher sales numbers than what an app like this would get a few weeks after its release. I'm pretty happy about selling 20 copies of Folio Case per day in the long run, but even that is going to require some effort on my part.
So what am I going to do in the future? While Apple has several advantages over me, especially in the resources department, I believe I can be more flexible and deliver more quickly. I can have direct connections to customers, which helps both me and all of them. For example, on Saturday I had a pissed off customer who was complaining about crashes in Folio Case and demanded his money back. We wrote back and forth, I got help from him and identified the issue and submitted a fix, which is currently in review. The same customer just wrote to me, saying that iBooks behaves worse than Folio Case in his case, crashing more and not recovering at all. Suffice to say, thanks to me being able to help him out and taking a real interest in his problem, the customer is now rather happy.
Cases like this will be my chance to keep Folio Case a viable product in the future. Right now, I am working on Folio Case 1.1 which will, among other features which I have yet to reveal, hopefully contain Dropbox support (Dropbox has yet to accept my application). Folio Case already allows downloading documents from the web, which iBooks doesn't, and this feature will help to allow users even more flexibility in managing their documents. Also, people seem to just love the page turning effect, and iBooks for some reason doesn't use that for PDF documents. Users who want a PDF reader which does exactly what they want it to do and offers a great reading experience at the same time will find it in Folio Case. In the future, I see Folio Case as the app iPad users should get when they have outgrown iBooks.
In the end, I cannot say whether it's a smart idea to put more effort into Folio Case from a return-on-investment perspective. All I know is that it's what I love to do, and it's what those existing 384+ customers deserve, so I'll just push forward now. If I didn't have a day job and were living off the money from my App Store sales, I might see things differently. But even if I only get 10 sales per day in the next few months, it was all worth it because it's just been incredible so far.