Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue

04/12/2012

Publishing’s Next Gold Strike: The Emerging App Market


Emerging World of Apps !

Tonight’s post is a bit technical, but, by reading it, maybe we can pick up some insight by osmosis.

First, some definitions to help clarify:

API – Stands for Application Program Interface. It is a set of programming instructions and standards for accessing a Web-based software application or Web tool. A software company releases its API to the public so that other software developers can design products that are powered by its service — For example, Amazon.com released its API so that Web site developers could more easily access Amazon’s product information. Using the Amazon API, a third party Web site can post direct links to Amazon products with updated prices and an option to “buy now.” More detail and another example here.

HTML5 –  The latest and greatest programming language that is device-agnostic and can be used across all mobile formats/platforms. This is also important for ebook publishers to understand so when they want to publish to all mobiles with just one format they can find a service that employs HTML5. See “What exactly is HTML5?” for more accurate detail, I’m sure.

Apps are big business for the tablet and mobile platforms. They provide seamless progression to enhanced functionality for us users of all kind of digital services — such as digital publishing across all tablets and mobiles with just one format.

Magazine publishing leads the way in employing apps, but understanding there emerging use will also benefit all publishers including indie publishers 🙂

Bill Mickey, Editor of FOLIO magazine, explains it better than I ever could:

The APP Market: Models Are Emerging, But Which To Choose

As the tablet and mobile markets evolve, publishers consider their pricing and distribution options.

Read and learn more 

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03/31/2012

Are Book Apps for Enhanced Books Desirable? Authors’ Attitudes


"Who Is John Galt?" Try the App to Find Out

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.

Read and learn more

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10/24/2011

Web Apps, Native Apps and Publishing


Apps are very apropos!

Tonight I’m visiting “Tech City” a little … and I’m not a true ‘techie’, so bear with me. 

I am amazed that apps have been written that allow e-books to be read (rendered) over many different formats (devices) at the same time. For example, you publish a book with the Amazon Kindle format and it can be read (distributed) over, say, the Apple iPad format, as well as others, with one generic app (like ePub for instance, I think).

The main difference between a web app and a native app is the web app is a more generic app that you can access and utilize over the web (as opposed to the internet) that allows an e-book to be published and read over multiple device formats. A native app is one developed for a specific device like an iPhone and is usually accessed on the internet through technologies like TCP/IP. In the recent past the native apps were far more detailed and superior, and still are to a lesser degree. But, advances in app technology has narrowed the quality between the native and web apps.

In researching this area of interest, I was reminded of something that I had forgotten: simply that there is a difference between the wide world web and the internet.

A more detailed explanation on apps is provided by Diane Buzzeo, CEO and founder of Ability Commerce, in the latest issue of Website Magazine:

Web Apps vs. Native Apps

Which is Best for Your Business?

Is the rise of mobile apps a death knell for the World Wide Web? Not quite. While content is being moved from the Web, where it’s openly shared, to closed environments that share data over the Internet but not on the “Web” — many important issues still need to be addressed.

How you plan on sharing your company’s content and product is a crucial part of your business plan. It’s vital to make the distinction between the Web and the Internet when directing your company’s mobile and e-commerce strategies.

For example, when accessing the Wall Street Journal from a Web browser, you’re on the World Wide Web, an interconnected network of billions of data points that’s regulated by an international body. When you access the Journal through a mobile app, you’re on the Internet; using various technologies like TCP/IP protocol, and communicating with the Journal’s servers to deliver their content to your device.

As smartphones and tablets have risen in popularity, companies have designed apps to accommodate mobile devices’ smaller browsing screens and restricted bandwidths. Developers found that apps could be tailored to complete a select handful of tasks in an attractive manner, funneling essential information to the user despite a less powerful device. However, advances in Web technology, namely in the form of HTML5 and CSS3, are offering alternatives to native apps.

Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the Web, recently lashed out against closed-off native apps in Scientific American:

The tendency for magazines, for example, to produce smartphone “apps” rather than Web apps is disturbing, because that material is off the Web. You can’t bookmark it or email a link to a page within it. You can’t tweet it. It is better to build a Web app that will also run on smartphone browsers, and the techniques for doing so are getting better all the time.

Pandora, which recently switched to a leaner, Flash-less Web app, now loads, on average, five times faster than the Flash version, a much faster on-boarding experience. However, the features of Web-based apps still lag behind those of their flashier, native, counterparts. The best method to reach customers is far from decided, however. Below are a set of parameters that you can use to determine the best platform and approach to deliver your product or content to the largest number of consumers and customers.

Accessibility

There are two facets of accessibility worth considering when deciding which avenue to take — accessibility as it relates to universality and broad, open access (a larger audience), and accessibility on the user device. On the device, as it stands now, there’s no real comparison. Native apps offer a smoother and more streamlined user interface, as they run offline on the device’s processor. Apple wowed the world with its iPhone’s home page, onto which crisp, fast-reacting app icons were set. The home page was so intuitive, a toddler could use it.

In fact, when a native app is live, there’s no comparing its functionality to a Web app. The one drawback, however, is that users have to download the apps individually. Also, the popularity of three different mobile operating systems means that companies have to commission three different versions of the same app to reach the largest audience possible.

Web apps offer more open access with lower performance standards. Last year, YouTube unveiled an HTML5 mobile site. The HTML5 version did away with Flash as the site’s video platform and now allows any smartphone device to access videos through pre-installed Web browsers. Although YouTube has a native app for every commonly used platform, the new mobile site is built to work with future devices and is cross-platform out-of-the-box. There will be no need to continually update its mobile app for the three major mobile operating systems. Also, updates and programming tweaks can be made without the user downloading an update directly to their device.

Performance/Features

While Web applications may provide more accessibility, even the most modern Web browsers still can’t provide the performance benchmarks that native apps reach. Web apps, with the exception of geolocation, don’t provide access to the slew of new hardware included in smartphone devices today. But apps that are coded specifically for certain classes of devices can integrate with a bevy of advanced hardware, including gyroscopes, cameras, microphones and speakers.

If your company is planning on delivering graphics-heavy or complex content, a native app may be a more suitable choice. If broad accessibility and searchability are focuses, Web apps are a better choice.

Web standards are improving, however, offering new ways to display content over the Web. HTML5, CSS3 and Java are leading the charge against the closed, native app dominance by offering video and animation features through the typical Web browser. The New York Times unveiled a Web app deemed “The Skimmer” that runs in a user’s browser window and looks startlingly similar to the publication’s mobile app — no download necessary.

  Read and learn more

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06/09/2011

Publishers Gain More Flexibility in iPad & iPhone Subs


The iPad and iPhone have become popular tools among magazine and newspaper readers.

Finally! Apple iStore has realized that their dictatorial management style RE pricing of subscriptions through apps in the iStore for the iPad and iPhone was a road to nowheresville, disgruntled customers and loss revenues.

Please refer to these previous posts for more background on this issue.

The latest today is from Crain’s New York Business:

Apple eases rules on iPad, iPhone subs

“Publishers will have more flexibility with Apple’s new digital publishing rules. They will now be allowed to undercut Apple’s app prices for subscriptions on their own websites and elsewhere.”

Apple has made a change that could help newspaper and magazine publishers make more money when they sell subscriptions for the iPad and iPhone.

The looser rules make it easier for publishers to sell subscriptions on Apple Inc.’s hot-selling devices outside the company’s online store.

Apple’s original subscription policy dictated that publishers couldn’t undercut the prices offered within their iPad and iPhone applications. Apple said Thursday that rule will no longer apply.

Read and learn more

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01/29/2011

Adobe’s Moving Fast with Flash & Air Technologies for Publishers on iOS & Android-Based Apps


Since Apple backed down on it’s ban of  Adobe’s Flash tech last September (due primarily to the FTC investigated complaint filed by Adobe against Apple for banning competition to it’s own tech), Adobe has moved fast to bring their very creative and imaginative tech apps to, not only the Apple iPad and iPhone, but to other rapidly developing tablet computers and devices as well.

These details from Kasper Jade , publisher and owner of the AppleInsider:

Adobe prepping “Creative Suite 5.5 Digital Publishing” for iOS, Android development

 Adobe appears poised to rush to market a new bundle of Creative Suite applications ahead of CS6 that it hopes will solidify its Flash and Air technology as an alternative platform for developers looking to capitalize on the booming market for iOS and Android-based cell phone and tablet applications.

The new suite, which will reportedly be marketed as “Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 Digital Publishing” suite, will showcase a new version of its “Packager for iPhone” application that will include support for not only Apple’s iPhone, but also the iPad and the new crop of Android tablets, incorporating popular touch gestures like “Pinch.”

As it stands, Packager for iPhone is a feature of Adobe Flash Professional CS5 software and the Adobe AIR SDK 2.0.1, which offers Flash developers a fast and efficient method to port existing code from ActionScript 3 projects to deliver native applications on iOS devices.

AppleInsider can independently corroborate claims that Adobe is feverishly working on a high profile CS 5.5 bundle that will land ahead of CS 6.0. While researching the features of Adobe Creative Suite 6.0 (1, 2) that were published last week, people familiar with Adobe’s plans provided evidence of the aforementioned “Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 Digital Publishing” suite by noting that the software maker had recently begun beta testing Adobe Flash Professional 5.5.

Read and learn more

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