People already read books and stories on their Kindles and assorted tablets, but what about reading fiction on a phone? Hooked is a new fiction app for those who always wished they could read a story on a smaller device, such as a—wait for it—smartphone.
Hooked is the tech baby of husband-and-wife team Parag Chordia and Prerna Gupta. Chordia and Gupta are the people behind Telepathic, a brand-new startup that has so far raised $1.2 million in new funding, bringing its total to $1.9 million. Investors include Greylock, 500 Startups, and angel investors such as Doug Feirstein of Hired and Rick Marini of BranchOut. Gupta and Chordia have previously collaborated on Khush, the app development platform resulting in Songify. It was acquired by competitor Smule in 2011.
Benefits of the Technology
Gupta touts Hooked as “Twitter for fiction,” though the app has already been likened to a mobile-first version of Wattpad. Hooked is a free app providing a free story every day, with unlimited access available via a $2.99 per week subscription. All fiction found within Hooked is original and comes to the user in dialogue form, just as with text messages. Future Hooked incarnations will include the ability to follow favorite authors and give users the chance to post their own stories.
"Our whole goal is to have the reader go through an entire narrative arc in five minutes and consume it in a way that's native to mobile," says Gupta. "The idea of telling a story through dialogue is not new. There's actually a long tradition of epistolary literature. Bram Stoker's Dracula, which is one of my favorite books, is told as letters back and forth between the two main characters. And scripts are primarily dialogue."
Gupta and Chordia aren’t resting on their proverbial laurels. After taking a year to travel, the creative couple started working on a sci-fi novel called The Starlings, which takes place in the Silicon Valley 100 years from now. Writing the novel provided Gupta and Chordia with the perspective they needed in regards to the “business of fiction.”
“The idea was if we were going to spend our time doing this, we want to give ourselves the best shot at reaching a mass audience—reaching the kind of scale that we've reached with our apps, previously," Gupta says. "So the more we looked into how good books are identified, how they're distributed and monetized, we realized there was a lot of scope for innovation in fiction."
Gupta also notes that 80 percent of young adult readers utilize digital devices. Add that to the fact that 85 percent of adults ages 18 to 29 own a smartphone and you’ve got a great platform for story apps.
“The way that we consume fiction today, you read five minutes here, 10 minutes there, you're on the go, it's easy to lose your place,” she says. “So this idea of a book that's 100,000 words, that's sort of this wall of text that's presented on a small screen, it felt like there was a way to rethink that from the perspective of a mobile app developer."