A popular question today “Are apps the future of book publishing?”
There are differing opinions on this subject. It kind of tickles the senses to imagine a book that has everyday sounds, videos, music and databases of related research that flows from the text as you read 🙂 But, will all the added sensory perception enhance the story? Or distract the reader?
Established authors, both traditional and independent, have some surprising assessments in this insider piece from Alex Knapp of Forbes.com and also some great examples of books with various kinds of enhancing apps:
Are Apps The Future of Book Publishing?
We’re at the dawn of the tablet era now. Earlier this month, Apple sold 3 million of its new iPad during the opening weekend, with some analysts expecting over 60 million of the tablets to be sold worldwide. What’s more, e-book readers are selling even more briskly than tablets. People are using those e-readers, too. On Amazon.com, books for its Kindle outsell its paper books.
What’s more, the explosion of e-books is putting pressure on publishers between demands for price cuts on one hand, and competition from independent authors like Amanda Hocking, who earned over $2 million selling e-books on her own before signing with a major publisher.
It’s no surprise, then, that publishers are turning to the app as a possible product for books moving forward. This has led to another movement towards enhanced books, particularly as apps for iPhone, Android, and other tablets. Are tablet apps the book of the future? In order to find out, I talked to authors, publishers, and app programmers, and read more than a few book apps.
The Varieties of E-Book App Experiences
One of the things about the e-book market right now is that there are a variety of experiences. Perhaps the type of e-book app that will seem most familiar to people would be something along the lines of Penguin’s Amplified Edition of Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged. This edition, which is purchased as an iPad app, features things like actual manuscript pages, the ability to share quotes on social media, and audio clips of Ayn Rand on various topics. These materials function similarly to the extras section on a DVD – they’re not integrated in the story, but they’re something that might be of great interest to people who are or become fans of the book.
Increasingly common, though, is bringing about a more interactive experience. For example, The Gift, which was published earlier this year by Persian Cat Press, is reminiscent of an illustrated children’s book. However, it’s not only narrated, but the reader has to interact with various parts of the book to move the story forward. In this case, the enhanced aspects of the book are an integral part of the story. (This one is a particular favorite of my toddler son.)
Perhaps the most wildly divergent book app I’ve encountered so far is Chopsticks, which is another Penguin book, but one that’s vastly different than their amplified editions. It’s described as a novel, but it’s vastly different than a traditional novel. As you turn the pages, you aren’t confronted with a traditional narrative, but rather interact with different pieces of the lives of Glory, a teen piano player, and the boy who moves in next door. The story’s told through newspaper clippings, pictures, songs, and more. It’s a rather fascinating way to tell a story.
For those people who still just want to cozy up with words on a page, I think one of my personal favorite e-book enhancements is Booktrack. Booktrack is pretty much exactly what it says on the tin. It provides a soundtrack for the books you’re reading. But it doesn’t only provide music – it also provides sound effects as you’re reading. You can try it yourself by checking out their free adaptation of the Sherlock Holmes story “The Adventure of the Speckled Band.” It’s pretty cool – nice period mood music. As Holmes sits by the fire, you hear the fire. When he and Watson are in a cab, you hear the clip-clop of the hooves. Even particularly cool is that it’s well-timed. There was a point where the story describes a woman screaming, and I heard the scream as I was reading the words. It made for a really immersive experience.
Another notable book app – and an approach I can see be adopted by others going forward, is The World of Richelle Mead, produced by Razorbill Books. The app itself isn’t a book. Rather, it’s a platform that fans of Richelle Mead, who’s written the hit YA series Vampire Academy, can use to buy enhanced books. Within the app, says Razorbill President Ben Schrank, “fans can interact with the author and each other.” In addition to enhanced content, the app doubles as a social media platform for Mead fans. “It’s more of a community app than a book app,” comments Schrank.