By Sticking with Java, E-Book Publisher Wattpad Exhibits Huge International Growth

In Europe by Edward Nawotka

• In August, Wattpad published usage analytics for downloads and readers of the company’s ebooks. The report covers desktop usage, as well as some 1,000 different phone models from 600 carriers in 160 countries (excluding China).

• While English-language books and readers using smartphones remains the strongest segment, growth among Southeast Asian readers using Java-based feature phones is nearly as good and, argues Wattpad co-founder Allen Lau, has even more potential.

By Edward Nawotka

TORONTO: Canadian e-publisher Wattpad “aspires to be the YouTube of ebooks,” and has some 600,000 stories or e-book chapters available on its site, says company co-founder Allen Lau. In late August, Lau released statistics analyzing which devices its readers use to read Wattpad’s self-published ebooks, covering usage on desktops and some 1,000 different phone models from 600 carriers in 160 countries (excluding China, where traffic to the company’s site is blocked). The report covers traffic through the second quarter of this year, from April through June.

“We know it’s not 100% representative of the market,” said Lau, “but is an interesting snapshot, particularly for the younger demographic. We have users from teenagers to writers in their 70s, but 80% are under 25 and most of them are female.”

What is Wattpad?

Wattpad offers ebooks via it’s website, a mobile site ( and through Wattpad’s proprietary application that can run on Apple iPhone/iPad, Android, BlackBerry, Nokia, and Java-enabled phones. According to its own data, the company delivers approximately one million downloads per month and has amassed nearly half a million readers since its launch in 2006.

The majority of Wattpad titles are downloadable as single chapters, typically of between two to twenty pages in length. The majority are written by self-published authors, though some traditional publishers have also begun experimenting with distribution through the site, which now include Macmillan’s sci-fi imprint Tor (available for the Android app) and Choose Your Own Adventure publisher Chooseco, among others.

The company is also in partnership with and to provide marketing solutions to their authors in the US, and with, to do the same for its Spanish-speaking contributors.

To date, the most popular single title on the site has Dinner with a Vampire by Abigail Gibbs, which is available in more 50 chapters, which have been read in aggregate some eight million times (representing approximately a half a million total readers).

A majority of titles are in English, though there are hundreds of titles available in languages including French, Italian, Spanish, German, Portuguese, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Russian, Chinese, Korean, Arabic, Malaysian, Romanian, Turkish, Czech, Polish, Dutch, Korean, Japanese and several others. The company is ad-support and advertising, through agreements with partner companies in the relevant countries, appears in the language native to where the book is being downloaded or read.

Wattpad co-founder Allen Lau

According to Wattpad’s analytics, English-speaking readers accounted for 42% of total e-readers, with the next largest group being Vietnamese readers at 36%.

Why Vietnam? “Our strong mobile support is helping us a lot,” says Lau, who originally hails from Hong Kong. “I think in Vietnam, most people don’t have access to computers, and if they do want that, they have to go to internet cafes. Just like in India and Indonesia, there are more people who can access the internet through ordinary ‘feature’ phones, like the Motorola Razr and simliar devices that run Java, but are not iPhones or smartphones. A lot of companies have given up on those devices, but we offer good content on those devices and the word has spread virally.” Indeed, Wattpad’s data reveals that readers in Vietnam and Indonesia rely on Java-based phone applications 85% of the time to access their site; Jave remains the fastest growing mobile platform throughout Asia.

Apple vs. Java

This is in direct contrast to North America and Europe, where smartphones, in particular Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android platform, are showing strongest growth. Overall, English is the company’s top language, popular language for ebook consumption. Readers in the US accounted for 70% of English-language ereaders, UK was 14% and Australia was 8%.

The iPhone was the most popular device among English-speakers (among Apple devices, the iPad took represented just 5% of users), though 59% of English-speakers still relied on desktops to read, and only 20% used mobile devices (a drop from 58% and 31%, respectively, in the previous quarter). Android adoption did continue to grow at a rate of 25% from the previous quarter, though still lags far behind either Apple devices or desktops.

After the United States, which accounted for 54% of iPhone users, Spain came second with 10%, surpassing the UK’s 8%, Australia’s 7% and Mexico’s 2%. Wattpad also saw growth in iPhone usage in France, Saudi Arabia, Italy and Japan.

Future Growth?

Notably, Wattpad says social networking is becoming increasingly important for generating interest in ebooks. Among their users, Wattpad’s report indicates “Over one third of [its] users have interacted at least once with other readers or authors.” It a particularly strong trend among English-speaking readers, where 80% have contributed comments or interacted with other members.”

Lau believes that viral word-of-mouth marketing offers the most potential for the company’s no-cost ebooks. “This is how we’re starting to gain even more traction in India, Vietnam and Indonesia,” says Lau.

As for turning a profit, Lau says that remains a future goal. At present, the ad-supported business strategy is “working okay.”

But “if your goal to be the YouTube of the reading and e-writing content and you rely on user generated content as we do, the number one goal is increase traffic,” he says. “Once you have a billion eyeballs there are a million ways to monetize it. We have tens of millions and are getting there.”

DISCUSS: Does Java-based E-Reading Still Have a Potential Audience in the United States and Europe?

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.