Cultivating ‘Lotus’

How developing the visuals, audio and UI of our meditative story app lead to a new way of reading on the phone.

Niels ’t Hooft
The Startup
Published in
10 min readDec 6, 2019


Promotional image of Read Lotus, our meditative reading app.
‘Lotus’ immerses the reader in its story with color, sound and animation. (Illustration: Tim Hengeveld.)

At Immer, we’re working on a new way of reading great books on the phone, a way to spend your screen time more meaningfully. We’re not quite there yet, but we did just release our first English-language pilot app, Lotus, in the iOS App Store, showcasing parts of what we’re creating.

Lotus is based on years of reading research, designing, prototyping and testing. In this article, I want to share some of our ideas and process, focusing on three of the threads we worked on: visuals, audio and UI.

Humble beginnings

De verdwijners (The Disappearers)
‘De verdwijners’ (The Disappearers), my novel from 2013.

It all started out quite innocently. And naïvely. When my novel De verdwijners (‘The Disappearers’) was published in 2013, I got frustrated trying to read its e-book edition on my iPhone. It was a cheap knock-off of the beautiful paper version, with some clumsy errors to boot.

As a longtime video games critic and writer, I thought: anything can happen on my screen (and on my earphones), so why is this experience so limited? I also thought, and this was the naïve part: I can easily do a better job!

So I talked to people, did (desk) research, raised some subsidies (from the Creative Industries Fund NL and Dutch Foundation for Literature, thanks folks!), brought a team together (thanks folks!), did even more (design) research, and started building and testing stuff.

Not everything was useful. There were diversions. It took way longer and was a lot harder than expected. But about halfway through, something interesting happened: the initial goal of using technology to make something nice, a digital-only book presented in a new way, shifted to something bigger.

Subtle visual elements

With Lotus, we set out to reimagine the e-book while sticking to text. Despite our largely visual culture, the power of the written word is still incredible. Isn’t it amazing that observing strings of a few dozen symbols can summon…



Niels ’t Hooft
The Startup

Hybrid writer of literature, games and apps. Co-founder & CEO of Immer, reading books remade for the smartphone.