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We interviewed Koen De Vos, the author of De Geniale Stad, to learn how Kotobee Author offered him the chance to create ebooks and mobile apps to provide a portable city walk guide for tourists and other travelers.

The Challenge

What challenges did you face prior to using Kotobee?

I didn’t face any particular challenges.

I’m an author, writing about Renaissance Florence. I just wanted to create an ebook and an app to go with my book that was published in October 2019 (De geniale stad. Waarom Florence zoveel genieën voortbracht in haar gouden 15de eeuw. English: The City of Genius. Why Florence produced so many geniuses in its golden 15th century).

I created a city walk in Florence based on the book and published it on my website. People could read it online or download a PDF version. But I quickly realized that this wasn’t a very handy solution. When you visit the city, you want to be able to access a city walk on your mobile phone. So I thought an ebook would be great, or even a mobile app. I could hire a professional to format the ebook, but I liked to create stuff myself and learn new skills.

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So I surfed the internet looking for an application to help me create ebooks and/or apps myself. I was prepared to delve into it and learn how to do it, but I wasn’t prepared to learn to code. I know a little bit of HTML and CSS but certainly not enough to code an ebook myself.

I explored the different options that were available online, and that’s how I got to know about Kotobee. I discovered many applications, especially app builders, and I tried several of them like Mobincube and Siberian CMS. But I wasn’t convinced. I either didn’t trust them to be stable enough or thought they were too complex to create the app wanted.

That’s when I focused on ebook applications. I chose Kotobee mainly because it allowed me to create a mobile app based on the ebook. Because I could try Kotobee Author for free, I found it to be quite easy to develop the ebook. Kotobee’s support seemed to act very quickly and the price was reasonable for me.

What potential solutions did you explore which didn't work out? What was most important to you when evaluating your options?

I explored app builders like Mobincube and Siberian and many others. As well as ebook builders like Sigil, ePubee maker, Pressbooks… Most important for me when evaluating the different options was the ease of use, price, support, and the possibility to urn the ebook into iPhone and Android apps.

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The Solution

How did you hear about Kotobee?

By surfing the internet and reading blog posts about different solutions to create apps and ebooks.

What have you found unique in Kotobee as a solution of choice (what drove you to choose Kotobee)?

As I already mentioned: Kotobee allowed me to create a mobile app based on my ebook. I was able to try Kotobee Author for free, and it seemed quite easy to develop the ebook. The support team reacted very quickly to my questions and the price was reasonable for me.

Another reason: good public reviews. When you spend that much time creating an ebook, you want a solution you can trust. One that delivers stable files and that makes your ebook come out in a splendid way. I worked on my book for more than ten years. My publisher is a major Dutch publisher who took great care to deliver a fantastic book, so the app had to look great and have the same quality.

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Has Kotobee's support team contributed to your selection criteria in any way?

Not really. I didn’t have any contact with the support team before choosing Kotobee. But the support is great, really. I didn’t expect it to be that good.

How difficult was the onboarding process with Kotobee, transitioning from an older system? Did your team adapt easily?

There was nothing before, so I didn’t have to do any transitioning. The onboarding was not as easy as opening a can of beer. But as I said, I was willing to spend some time learning the system and once you know how it works creating an ebook isn’t that difficult anymore.

Is there a particular aspect of Kotobee that you rely on the most?

I like the fact that I can see how the ebook looks on different screens. You adapt something and immediately you can check it on tablets, different iPhones and Samsungs, etc.

The Results

What metrics do you use to measure the success of your decisions? Has Kotobee affected those in any way? Any numbers (or student feedback) here would be useful.

There are no metrics.

In what ways is your competitive advantage enhanced?

Well, the app is out there in the Google Play Store and the ebook is available in Kobo and Google Playbooks. But it’s still new, so I don’t have any significant results yet. But I know many readers as well as the press like the fact that there is a city walk based on the book and that they can read it and listen to it via their smartphones.

The Future

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What are your project’s plans for the future?

My app (Florence stadswandeling: De genial stad) is a great way to explore the city of Florence in a different way. It has many stories and insights about all the geniuses that lived there in the 15th century like Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Machiavelli, Brunelleschi, Fra, Angelico, the Medicis, etc. The app and ebook are only available in Dutch right now. But I would really like to get an English translation of the apps and why not French, Italian, Chinese, Spanish, Arabic and Russian versions as well?

And then, a new book within a couple of years and probably another app to go with it.

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