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How to adjust reading speed in RSVP mode

Some of you have been asking us, how to adjust reading speed in RSVP mode in Fastr Books iOS app. As the user guide says, you need to slide up or down with your finger on the right part of the screen and the reading speed indicator will appear. It shows the current text display speed in words per minute (wpm). However, a video demonstration probably is better than the written instruction. So here comes the video:

Smart categories in Discover tab

As the number of features in Fastr Books continues to grow, we add shortcuts to provide you with an easy access to your books. Recently we have added ebook import from Readmill. Your ebooks imported from Readmill are located in Discover / Categories / My Readmill books.

eBook import from Readmill Fastr Books

Second smart category that we have also added is called “My purchases”. You will find all the ebooks that you have earlier downloaded (or purchased) from Fastr Books catalog.

how-to-check-your-purchases

Fastr Books and Fastr Pro apps feature comparison.

As you often asked, what are the differences between our free Fastr Books and paid Fastr Pro apps, here is a feature comparison table.

Fastr Books Fastr Pro
Price Free $2.99
ebook format support DRM-free epub files DRM-free epub files
Adding articles from the web No Yes
Adding your own ebooks Yes Yes
Book catalog inside the app Yes No
Following other readers Yes No
News feed Yes No
Upload ebooks from the web No Yes
Readmill integration Yes No
Pocket integration No Yes, but limited
RSVP mode Yes, 1 word per screen Yes, multiple words per screen
Reading position saving Yes Yes, but not for all books
Navigation in ebookswith no TOC Yes No
Adding highlights Yes Yes
Anotations to highlights No Yes
Dictionary iOS default iOS default
Sharing on social networks Yes Yes
Bookmarks No No
Platforms iPhone and iPad iPhone and iPad
Sync between devices Reading position is synced Book files are synced
Adding ebooks From Dropbox, iTunes and catalog From Dropbox and iTunes

Fastr Books adds file migration from Readmill

Social reading app Readmill has recently informed that the service would be shut down on the 1st of July 2014. Readmill advises users to export their ebooks, highlights and data. We have prepared a streamlined import for ebooks, user profile and highlights from Readmill to Fastr Books.

We understand the value of the reading experience and reading history, so we want to provide Readmill users with a service, where they can comfortably migrate all their data and be able to access their ebooks and highlights in a way they are used to. To migrate ebooks from Readmill to Fastr Books you need to visit https://fastrbooks.com/readmill Migration process consists of 5 steps:

1. Click the “Import button” on https://fastrbooks.com/readmill page

Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 18.37.13

2. Login to Readmill with your account

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3. Allow Fastr Books to access your data

grant-access

4. Signup with Fastr Books (if you are not Fastr Books user yet, or sign in if you are already on Fastr Books) to authorise migration of your data.
5. The ebooks prepared for migration from Readmill will be shown, at this step you will need to confirm the migration

On the last screen you will receive a message “Well done! Your ePub format ebooks are now added to upload queue.” It can take several minutes, till your ebooks will appear in your Fastr Books account. You will find your files in Fastr Books app for iPhone and iPad in Discover tab under Categories / My Readmill books

Currently Fastr Books supports only DRM-free ePub format files, so your books with Adobe DRM and ebooks in PDF format will not be migrated. Your highlights data will be also imported and saved to Fastr Books, but the display of highlights can take another couple of weeks to be finished.

Reading life after Readmill: what are the alternative social reading apps?

News that Readmill will be closed with the 1st July was quite unexpected. With the growing number of users and elegant reading apps for iPhone, iPad and Android, the overall feeling was that it would be here to stay. However as it is mentioned in the post-mortem blog of German startup (https://readmill.com/epilogue): “on July 1, 2014, the Readmill app will no longer be available”. Even if you keep the app on your device, it looks that the server part of Readmill will no longer work: “All of your books, reading data and account information will be permanently deleted after July 1, 2014.”

So there are two major questions for the Readmill users, as it always happens when a startups decides to shut down the business. The first question is “why it happened?” and the second “what to do now?”. I will try to answer both of them from my point of view, taking into account that I don’t know the exact reasons (only Readmill founders know them, and probably they will share them some day).

Why did Readmill decide to stop the business?

The first part of the question why Readmill decided to close the service, is more or less simple and Henrik Berggren (Founder of Readmill) even states the reason in the Epilogue: “we failed to create a sustainable platform for reading”. We can also try to guess, what was wrong with the sustainability of Readmill’s business. They had the growing number of users, some A round investment and a number of ways to monetize the audience. Sometimes it is even possible to sell a startup with a huge number of users with no business model in place for hundreds of millions or even billions USD. And if you don’t sell, usually there are investors ready to throw cash of you, if the number of users grows in millions.

So did Readmill have millions of users necessary to attract more money to finance the business? When it comes to the number of users Readmill does not disclose any data. Lets do some guesswork here. According to my Reading Journal exported from Readmill I have joined the platform on 11 of June 2012 as the 16332nd member of the community. If we look at the chart of the milestones reached by Readmill amount of new signups till Jun 2012 is somewhere 30 times less than after that date till today. It means, if we count roughly, the platform could have around 500K downloads on both iOS and Android.

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 11.33.10

According to the Google Play data, the amount of downloads of Readmill Android app is 50,000 – 100,000. Could be that around 10% of them are active users, that makes it 50K active monthly users on both iOS and Android. Facebook also says that the amount of active monthly users, that signed in with Facebook is somewhere above 10.000. With all these numbers you probably already got my point. The amount of users is good but not as good to drive more investment into the startup. For example Moon Reader app for Android has around 20M downloads and is quite sustainable business (taking into account, that it was developed by a single person in China).

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 11.40.38

With the relatively small number of users, why Readmill don’t keep the platform working and finance it from the money they got from Dropbox? In my opinion, the problem here is the Adobe RM SDK, that Readmill uses to open DRM protected ebooks. Adobe wants you to pay somewhere around 0.30$ for every download and every paid ebook sold or even free ebook downloaded. Imagine you got 10.000 free downloads in a day, that will result in $3000 payment to Adobe, while you earn nothing from that audience. I strongly believe that Adobe DRM is not an appropriate choice for a startup and it brings money only to Adobe (by the way there are also absolutely inadequate for a startup, old fashioned Adobe license fees of $75,000 in year one and $37,500 in subsequent years), with no benefits to the reading platform, publishers or any other parties involved. Not to mention, that it is an additional hassle for the reader, who wants to open the file and is not aware of the DRM specifics, while the DRM protection can be easily removed by a number of tools freely available online.

Where to migrate from Readmill?

Readmill has a list of recommended apps, where users can migrate. There are iBooks, Bluefire reader and Aldiko there. These apps are good, but are really far from Readmill in terms of UX and the spirit, because none of them is a startup. They have no social reading features as well. For those who are looking for a different Readmill alternative here are other social reading apps available in App Store and/or Google Play and their comparison to Readmill.

Oyster Books http://oysterbooks.com
US startup, that just raised 14M investment, so probably is here to stay. Oyster does not have so much focus on following friends and sharing highlights as Readmill had, but the basic social features are available. For example you can follow your friends favorites on Oyster. While the reader is basic, the main focus of Oyster is the subscription model for ebooks and the content offering. Oyster website states, that there are over 200,000 ebooks available on the platform. Downside of Oyster is that you cannot add your own ebooks.

Facebook integration: yes
Following other readers: yes
News feed in the app: no
Sharing highlights in the feed: no
Adding your own ebooks: no
Price: app is free, but you need to subscribe with a credit card
Availability: iPhone, iPad and web (for catalog preview), only in US.

Bookmate http://bookmate.com
Russian startup that raised a whooping 25M round 2 years ago to create a subscription service for music (Russian clone for Spotify) and ebooks. You can see what your friends read on Bookmate and follow other readers on their web version, that features user profiles similar to Readmill. No highlight sharing in the feed, but the library and reading position sync is available for iPhone, iPad and Android. Bookmate started with content offering in Russian only, so maybe is not that popular in Europe and US, but they are adding ebooks in English now.

Facebook integration: yes
Following other readers: yes
News feed in the app: yes
Sharing highlights in the feed: no
Adding your own ebooks: yes, from web only
Price: free
Availability: worldwide for iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows phone and web.

Fastr Books http://fastrbooks.com
A startup from Finland, that develops social reading platform with a mixed ebook sales model. User can choose between using app for free buying a title or getting a subscription (this feature is coming in April). Fastr Books features a news feed, that is similar to what Readmill has and can be used to see, what are your friends reading now. You can also start reading any paid ebook from Fastr Books catalog and read 10% of its content for free.

Facebook integration: yes
Following other readers: yes
News feed in the app: yes
Sharing highlights in the feed: no (coming in May 2014)
Adding your own ebooks: yes, from the device, iTunes or Dropbox
Price: free
Availability: worldwide for iPhone, iPad and web (for catalog preview).

What’s coming in Fastr Books v1.6?


If you are reading this blog post, you are probably a user of Fastr Books or Fastr Pro apps. Today we have several good news for you! But let’s start with addressing the bugs that you have been reporting us lately.

Last week we have discovered, that there is a bug in RSVP (fast reading) mode caused by iOS v7.1 update just recently released by Apple. Today we have submitted an update for the Fastr Books app – version 1.6 with a fix for this bug. It will be available for download in 5 days.

There is also a major improvement in the version 1.6 – you can now read 10% of every paid book for free. And of course this feature makes sense with premium content only, because you can read public domain books for free already. So it is a hint – premium content in English is coming to Fastr Books very soon.

With the “start reading for free” feature you can really decide, if you like the book or not, before paying for it. It is different from Amazon or iBooks “read a sample” function, because it actually lets you to download, start reading the book, and read a good part of it (that could be even 50 or 100 pages). All your highlights and reading progress will be saved, if you decide to buy the books afterwards and no additional download needed – you can buy the book right from inside of it, when you reach the end of the free part.

As for the other improvements, we have added the night mode in the speed reading, improved app performance in several tabs and fixed the “invite friend” feature. Now a friend, that you invited will receive a promo code, that he/she can redeem and both of you will get 100 points each. All of you, who invited friends when this feature was broken and have not got bonus points so far, you will get them very soon.

We have also added a guide on adding your own ebooks to Fastr Books. It is being displayed when you tap on the “+” (plus) icon in the top right corner of Library tab. You can add your ebooks in DRM-free ePub format from Dropbox, iTunes or open files downloaded in a browser.

Thanks you for all the feedback and advise about the improvements for the RSVP reading mode that you send us. We are working on this, so stay tuned for updates. If you want to help us make Fastr Books even better, please rate the app and/or leave a review in the App Store. Your reviews and ratings are the best motivators for our team.

Fastr Books v1.5 is now in the App Store

iPhone4-eng-4

Fastr Books latest update v1.5 with RSVP speed reading and 3000 books in 7 languages is now in App Store! Application is free to download: https://itunes.apple.com/app/id724596360

Speed reading features come to Fastr Books

Dear Fastr Books and Fastr Pro application users, we have a big announcement to make! Until this week we had two applications – Fastr Books and Fastr Pro. Our customers often asked, what is the difference between them. So we have made a decision, to have all the features of both apps in the Fastr Books application for iPhone and iPad. Here are the answers to the most frequent question, that our customers asked us recently.

How to activate the speed reading feature in Fastr Books?

Fastr Books app will have the speed reading feature with the RSVP technology that is available in Fastr Pro. It will be available for free as a feature of the Fastr Books app, that you can enable in Settings in the Profile tab. Fastr Books app is and will remain free as well, as our main focus is ebook sales and subscription model for ebooks. For the upcoming update (this week) RSVP speed reading will have the basic one word per screen mode and the advanced modes will come with the next updates.

What will happen to the books uploaded to Fastr Pro?

So if you use Fastr Pro app, you are welcome to switch to Fastr Books, that is available for free. Fastr Books app also includes most of the users feedback taken into consideration and the bugs reported before from Fastr Pro are fixed there. The ebooks, that you have upload on our server will be available in Fastr Books. You will be able to sign into Fastr Books with you Fastr Pro account as well (with both Facebook or email).

Is Fastr Books for iPhone and iPad similar to Spritz on Samsung Galaxy S5?

Just recently Samsung has announced a partnership with Spritz to add speed reading features to their new flagship smartphone Galaxy S5. If you want to use RSVP speed reading similar to Spritz on your iPhone or iPad, Fastr Books provides is the choice. We have started to work on speed reading technology in 2012. Since then we have worked together with our users with a goal to improve the original RSVP concept, that is now advertised by Spritz.

What is the difference in Fastr speed reading and Spritz?

Our current modified RSVP in Fastr Pro app is more advanced in terms of text presentation, so it lets you to achieve a higher speed. Better results can be achieved by showing not only one, but two or even more words per screen and combining small words like “a, he, she, it, or, if, etc”. With this approach a speeds far better than the 500 wpm advertised by Spritz can be achieved. For example, we have multiple users reading at a speed above 1000wpm.

How these several words per screen are chosen?

However, when you combine words together mechanically, the structure of the sentence can be broken. This is why we do it in a smart way and divide sentences in chunks, each of them makes sense. This is how people read usually, while reading text on a page. If you can not grasp the whole sentence in one fixation, you divide it in logical chunks and read it with several fixations having 2-5 eye movement per sentence. Fastr Pro technology main advantage is to provide text in a logically consistent chunks, not just mechanically dividing it. And of course we support classical one word per screen RSVP mode, that will be available in Fastr Books app this week.

If you have any questions regarding the migration to Fastr Books app, please contact us at support@fastr.io

22 months after Garage48

Hi, my name is Eldars, I am a CEO of Fastr Books – a startup that helps authors and publishers to proactively sell ebooks harnessing the power of social networks. We have built our first prototype almost 2 years ago in Garage48 hackathon in Valmiera, Latvia.

Startup roller-coaster
In these 22 months we visited 38 startup events and conferences in 9 countries with geography varying from Estonia to Croatia and from Israel to USA. According to Tripit travel planner, I have travelled more than 100 thousand kilometres in the past 2 years. Our startup has been through an incubator, accelerator, got angel investment (we even managed to get it twice, so if your startup didn’t get it, blame us), got pre-seed investment from Startup Sauna Foundation and have pivoted from the original concept of a speed reading app into more mainstream ebook selling platform.

Having been in all the stages a startup is supposed to go through we are now back to the very basics of any business – serve our customers and concentrate on the product development. This month we launched our new Fastr Books iOS app with more than 3000 books (both paid and free) in 7 languages with book recommendations and social discovery features. By following other readers on Fastr Books you can see what books they read now and what books are trending.

Fastr-Books-Discover2

Where we are now?
Now Fastr Books is a team of 4 people working full time in TechHub Riga in Latvia. We have contracts with 5 publishers locally and abroad, an agreement with a local library, couple of partnerships with book retail stores. Just recently on Facebook page we achieved a a number of engaged users higher than any other books/publishing related startup and similar to the engagement of some global publishers. We have reached an audience of 100 thousand Facebook users with some viral posts and zero marketing expenses.

We constantly work on adding new content partners, so that Fastr Books app user has a wide offering of book titles to chose from. Compared to iBooks, that is currently our closest competitor on iPad and iPhone (usually we get users to switch from iBooks to Fastr Books), Fastr Books features rewards for the active users and the ability to follow your friends. Rewards come in form of bonus points, that can be used for buying books and the discount can be up to 100% of the book price.

Plans for the future
This year we plan to sign up more publishers this year and expand our catalog to 100 thousand books, that is comparable to the offering of iBooks and Amazon. I would like to invite self publishing authors to our platform as well. As we have started with the Fastr Pro speed reading app and it grew quite popular in the App Store, it generated more than 220 thousand downloads. Currently we have thousands of active readers on Fastr platform, who could be interested in your books, co contact us at info@fastr.io, if you are an author.

Eldars Loginovs
CEO at Fastr Books

Enjoy reading on your iPhone in any weather

Fastr-Books-in-gloves

People like to use their smartphones outside in the street. We often use our smartphone at the bus stop while waiting for a bus, sometimes even while we walk. And of course reading on a smartphone is one of the most popular use cases. In summer time reading from a smartphone while being outside is a great way to fill the waiting time with some meaningful activity. So many people do this. However in some countries there is winter time as well. Here in Finland, where Fastr Books is based, winter is quite cold. The same about Sweden, Canada and many other countries.

Reading on your smartphone in winter is not that good idea anymore. First of all, your hands get cold, so you prefer to keep them in the pockets. Second, you usually wear gloves in winter and gloves do not let you use the touch screen of your phone. Taking of your gloves could be a solution, but then your fingers quickly get cold. This is why most people don’t have a way to read comfortably from their smartphones in winter time and this is sad. Of course there are some weird smartphone friendly gloves, but nobody has them. We have been thinking about this problem in Fastr Books until we found a solution.

With the new Fastr Books app for iPhone you don’t need any special gloves to read an ebook. We have programmed the side buttons on the iPhone, so you can use them to turn the pages! Whether you wear gloves or are bare handed, it works perfectly in both cases! Fastr Books app for iPhone will be available in the App Store in December 2013. Want to get it now? Join the group of beta testers here:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/203144363207327/