Interview • 05.12.2022

Experiencing books in a new way

How Hugendubel combines books with gaming to offer its customers a new experience

How do you offer something new to loyal customers and at the same time win over people you couldn't reach before? The bookseller Hugendubel has found a modern and innovative solution: the app "Weltensammler" ("Worlds Collectors").

With the app, customers become agents and experience the stories of selected books in a completely new way. One of the ideas behind the app is to show people that you don't always have to read entire novels to experience exciting stories. We asked Sarah Winter, Head of Retail Marketing and Visual Merchandising at Hugendubel, and Daniel König, Project Manager Mixed Reality Applications at Usaneers, how the idea came about and what else customers can expect in the application.

Sarah Winter looks into the camera
Sarah Winter, Head of Retail Marketing and Visual Merchandising at Hugendubel
Source: Birgit Hart

What is the idea behind the "Weltensammler" app?  

Sarah Winter: With the AR gaming app of the same name, we are continuing a successful community campaign from 2020. Back then, we called on the users of our customer app to find lost characters and objects from books. Within three weeks, a dedicated network of "agents" emerged and together they completed missions and cracked puzzles. The enthusiasm of the community was enormous. We saw a need and an opportunity to combine books and gaming.  

Why did you decide to use augmented reality?  

Winter: Bookshops invite you to linger, browse, browse and sometimes you literally sink into other worlds and adventures. Our app combines the real environment with augmented reality. No AR glasses are needed for this, the app can be downloaded free of charge and has no hidden additional costs. Hugendubel thus offers a new and easy access to books and reading. It is the first AR gaming app in the German book trade.

Daniel König looks into the camera
Daniel König, Project Manager Mixed Reality Applications at Usaneers
Source: Usaneers

How did the development of the app proceed?

Daniel König: From the very beginning, it was important for us to develop for both operating systems, i.e. for Android as well as for iOS. The challenge here is the use of different AR systems, but they have to work consistently. The difficulty with AR apps is compatibility with older devices. Usaneers has optimised the AR puzzles in the app so that they work as well as possible on devices up to four years old. Above all, the graphics had to be consistent and look both old and modern. After about nine months, the custom development was completed and the app could be published in the app stores.

How does the app work in terms of conversion from user to customer?

Winter: Hugendubel wants to get people excited about reading and books. We reach some people locally, many people rather digitally; especially young customers and groups of people who have not read before. We also want to approach them proactively and show them that you don't have to read a whole book to engage with literature. This can also be done in an informal way using new methods such as our gaming app. The feedback shows the playful willingness to engage with book genres that the users were not necessarily familiar with before in their role as agents.

What is the process of turning a novel into a "Weltensammler" mission?  

Winter: Basically, any book is suitable to be converted into a mission. It's basically a matter of identifying the core themes and key scenes of a book and converting them into corresponding puzzles without spoiling anything.  

König: The continuous exchange between Hugendubel and Usaneers is the key to an optimal user experience. Hugendubel provides the content and puzzle ideas from the book, which are jointly transformed into tasks and AR puzzles by 3D developers and software programmers. 

Are there already plans to expand the app with more stories and missions?

Winter: The world "Entertainment" will soon be supplemented by the book "Genesis" by Chris Carter. The app will also be expanded in the medium term to include more worlds, books and exciting missions.  

What are the reactions of the clientele so far?  

Winter: We receive feedback primarily through our social media channels. The customers are enthusiastic about the new way of access and the connection between the physical and the virtual world. 

König: As the first AR gaming app in the German book trade, Hugendubel is entering new territory with Usaneers and is on a par with other well-known AR apps such as the "IKEA Place App" or "Pokémon GO".

Interview: Matthias Groß

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