Book apps represent a new territory for authors. Our advice? Don’t be intimidated by
this digital technology; an app is a new way to interact with your readers and one that
augments the reading experience.
You know the stats: According to the Association of American Publishers, U.S. book
publishers brought in more revenue from e-books than hardcover books in the first
quarter of 2012—a first for the industry. What’s driving the e-book growth and
craze? Very simply, the explosion of the tablet and e-reader market. Former Morgan
Stanley analyst Mary Meeker’s highly regarded Annual Internet Trends Report
(2012) noted that 29 percent of U.S. adults own a tablet or e-reader—up from two
percent less than three years ago. In 2011 alone, 48.3 million iPads, Android tablets
and e-readers were sold to U.S. consumers according to research by the NPD Group.
The growth of the tablet market brings new opportunities for book publishers with
one particular area ripe for exploration and experimentation: the app market. The
iTunes App Store alone has more than 660,000 apps, of which, 65,102 are primarily
for books. By all accounts, more people will use mobile/tablet platforms than PCs
making apps more relevant and mainstream.
How does this affect book publishers? They’re being pushed to become multimedia
companies by creating audio, video and interactive components for readers. Thus,
publishers are learning that apps are one way to sell content and reach an engaged
audience. Besides understanding app functionality, enhancements, pricing and
marketing, book publishing professionals must answer these questions:
- Should a book become a dedicated app or an enhanced e-book?
- Do these “immersion experiences” make people happy when they read their books?
- Does it add value to the reading experience or does it get in the way of enjoying a book?
Not all books lend themselves to being converted to an app or an enhanced e-book
because of the time and resources required for such an exercise. However, many
books do and therein lies the opportunity and challenge for authors and publishers.
For authors, it’s hard not to be intimidated by apps. The ones highlighted in the
press are often by well-known authors whose publishing houses have dedicated
many resources to developing the app. However, an app doesn’t have to be fancy
with bells and whistles; it can be simple but it should be innovative and interactive
in some way. The reality is customers will demand interactive books that provide
a better and more informed and enriching experience. So authors, apps are here to
stay—it’s matter of deciding whether creating an app makes sense as a companion
piece for your book.
In the coming months, we’ll look at an array of book apps. Here are a few to spur
- The Waste Land by T.S. Elliot: This app brings Elliot’s poem to life. The
iPad app, which costs $13.99 includes audio recordings of the poem and a
reading by Elliot himself and other literary luminaries. You can dissect the
poem by reading the many references and allusions with comprehensive and
interactive notes. There are also more than 35 expert video perspectives on
the poem and a picture gallery, which includes the original manuscript pages
where you can see how the poem took shape under editor Ezra Pound’s
- Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham: One of the top-selling children’s books is
now an app. It promotes reading in young children because individual words
are highlighted as the story is read and words zoom up when pictures are
touched. The story is professionally narrated with background audio and
digital artwork for each scene. The iPad and iPhone app costs $3.99.
- Al Gore—Our Choice: This iPhone and iPad app augments Al Gore’s book
Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis, which examines the causes
of global warming and offers solutions that are currently being explored.
This app is an example of how interactivity can create an engaging and
fun learning experience because it combines infographics, animations,
documentary videos and images. Our Choice won the 2011 Apple Design
Award. It costs $4.99 to download.
By Sarita Venkat