A literature teacher in a high school, Sarah Sauquet is the creator of ‘Un texte un jour’ (a text a day): a mobile application that invites you to (re)discover classic literary texts. For Bull, she looks back on this pioneering and insightful experience.
How did the idea for ‘Un texte un jour’ come to you?
Over the course of eight years of teaching, I found that my students – aged 15-18 – were finding it increasingly difficult to read. They’re put off by the book as an object, the difficulty of the text or simply by the time and concentration required. A few years ago, though, I’d given my nearest and dearest some personalized anthologies of excerpts from classic books, which they had really enjoyed. With my mother, who runs an IT company, we had the idea of taking this principle of choosing passages and using digital try to reach out to an audience that’s rather uneasy about literature. Very rapidly, we came up with the application ‘Un texte un jour’: it provides highly readable short extracts that have formated to make them easily readable on mobile devices, with a commentary. The extracts are updated daily and supplemented with literature-related games. Development took us six to eight months, with my mother taking care of the technical aspects while I chose and annotated the texts. The first version was launched in October 2012. Today ‘Un texte un jour’ is available free to download on AppStore, with additional paid-for in-app features, and on Google Play. Across all platforms we’re registering about 1,000 readings, 300 game events and 15 downloads a day .
Who is the audience for ‘Un texte un jour’?
We only offer copyright free classics, which fit in well with the secondary school curriculum. Some students use it to get their general culture-fix, but our audience is mainly adults who are happy to reconnect in modern and fun way with literature. We’re also attracting older people through Dynceo, my sister’s start-up company dedicated to intellectual stimulation for the elderly. We also tried to offer ‘Un livre un jour’ (A book a day) to the publishing world, but without much success. Generally, I’ve notices that it’s much easier to get interested in literature via technology than the reverse. Among my colleagues, the appeal of digital tools is less a generational issue than one of content. What is affected by which generation you come from, however, is the reluctance to pay, even though there seems to be a marked change in this respect.
In the light of your experience, what are the key success factors in the app economy?
The most important success factor for any app is its simplicity. There are no instructions, you’re using it on a smaller screen, so it must be instantly usable and enjoyable. But being simple, both conceptually and technically, is not necessary easy to achieve. The second factor is communication: we didn’t quite realise the importance of this. Just offering a good-quality app is not enough. In the app stores, trailing in the wake of Candy Crush Saga, there are thousands of applications (more or less ghosts) that you have to compete with even after your app has been downloaded. Updates, notifications, social networking, media stories… anything that you can do to get yourself known, and make sure that you’re remembered, is crucial. Our audience really took off when I joined Twitter, where I now have over 1,300 followers, and after my presentation at TEDxChampsElyseesWomen 2013 which led to a lot of press coverage. It’s still difficult to talk about business matters for us because, even with ‘Un texte un jour’ (the original French version) and its little sisters – ‘Un poème un jour’ (A poem a day’, ‘A text a day’ (the English version), and, most recently, ‘Un texte un éros’(A text an eros), devoted to erotic literature – is already much more than a hobby.
A text a day