This article was published on October 23, 2014

Non-friction: Blloon brings a novel approach to e-book subscriptions

Non-friction: Blloon brings a novel approach to e-book subscriptions
Paul Sawers
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Paul Sawers

Paul Sawers was a reporter with The Next Web in various roles from May 2011 to November 2014. Follow Paul on Twitter: @psawers or check h Paul Sawers was a reporter with The Next Web in various roles from May 2011 to November 2014. Follow Paul on Twitter: @psawers or check him out on Google+.

There’s no shortage of apps to help you read on the move, and we’ve seen a real rise in recent times of subscription e-book services, with Amazon launching its Unlimited monthly offering, adding to existing platforms such as Scribd and Oyster. Then there’s the likes of Total Boox, which adopts a pay-per-page ethos.

Ultimately, such services are striving to remove the friction from reading, delivering e-books on tap similar to what Netflix does with TV shows and movies.

Now, a German startup is introducing its own take on this burgeoning subscription trend with the launch of Blloon, kicking off in the UK App Store (iPhone/iPad) first before hitting the US in time for Christmas and Germany shortly after. A full international rollout will happen thereafter.

How it works

Rather than charging you a set monthly fee for unlimited access as with the likes of Scribd or Amazon Unlimited, Blloon charges you in ‘chunks’ of pages. However, you can earn credits for free reading through a number of conduits, such as recommending books to friends.

New users are actually given 1,000 pages to read completely gratis which, depending on their respective lengths, should get you 3-4 books. Now, if you invite a friend to join Blloon, and they subsequently sign up, you receive 200 pages. And following Blloon on Twitter earns you 50 – granted, this can’t be a repeat reward, otherwise you could just unfollow/follow again.

You can also provide feedback on the app itself to earn 100 pages and, with its next big update, you will be able to receive page credits by reviewing books.

It’s an interesting approach, and it’s one that’s clearly designed to help spread the word and encourage a community around the platform. But the reality is, you will only be able to recommend so many people to sign up, and you can only leave so many reviews, so it may only have limited leverage. This is why you can also pay to read.

Pricings just now are in British pounds only, and will cost £3.99 ($6.40) per month for 500 pages, £6.99 ($11.20) per month for 1,000 pages, or you can buy smaller top-ups of 100 pages, which will set you back £1.29 ($2). These are purchased as and when you need them, and may prove useful if you exceed your monthly allocation from your subscription.

Blloon has a number of publishers on board for launch, and you’ll recognize many of the titles – including Life of Pi by Yann Martel and Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro.


There is a monetary agreement in place with the publishers, though details of this are confidential. We’re also told that in time, there may be adverts within the app (not the books) for non-premium members.

“We know that young people are keen readers, we know that they occasionally read e-books but we didn’t believe there was a platform out there that provided these things in a way that fits into their lifestyle,” explains Thomas Leliveld, CEO and founder of Blloon. “Allowing people to earn more books by recommending and sharing is a fun part of our app that makes it very different to anything else on the market.”

Blloon is particularly useful if you know lots of people who you can recommend books to so you can get free page credits, but as a paid-model, it may have limited appeal. For example, £3.99 ($6.40) per month for 500 pages should get you around two full books, which seems reasonable enough. But at £6.99 ($11.20) per month for 1,000 pages, you’re perhaps best plumping for an unlimited Scribd membership or Kindle Unlimited subscription instead.

If you’re a heavy reader, then Blloon probably isn’t for you. But if you’re a casual reader or someone who gets through a book or two a month, then it’s worth your time.

➤  Blloon [iOS]