Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue

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.

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09/10/2011

Publishers’ Why’s and Wherefore’s When Migrating to Digital (are all the damn apostrophes correct?)


Karina Mikhil - Publishing Executive

Indeed, when the current publishing upheaval began (it seems  just a little while ago in the scheme of things) and the conqueror ‘Digital’ came swaggering into the publishing world, publishers were at first completely devastated; then were bombarded by all kinds of options and questions for their very survival!

You can just imagine publishers’ mental angst deciding “Should I get out of this rapidly changing fireball of an industry or should I admit that the old ways are going down the drain and commit to learning a whole new process … dealing, perhaps, with an entirely new and separate tech industry?”

Karina Mikhil , a publishing executive with a Master’s in Publishing from New York University, has some excellent questions and analyses that will help these publishing execs and their firms reach a viable decision.

From Karina Mikhil in Publishing Perspectives:

Migrating to Digital Publishing? The Six Key Questions to Ask

Here are the six “Ws” you need to ask yourself before transitioning from the old to the new: why, who, what, when, which, and where.
 

The publishing industry is not generally known for being agile or quick to change, yet it is facing one of its biggest times of change probably since the invention of the printing press. At the heart of this is the migration to digital.

Prior to this migration, a time-tested process and structure existed for getting books printed: from acquisition, copyediting and typesetting, to author reviews and proofreading, to print. Although hiccups occurred and no two companies had the exact same workflow, the foundations were the same and ensured quality products got released in expected time frames.

Whether publishers are dealing with online content or e-books, digital only or both print and digital, publishers are now faced with more questions than answers as to how to incorporate the new with the old. Below I provide a framework for those questions, using the traditional 6 Ws: why, who, what, when, which, and where.

Why?

Of the six questions, this is the easiest to answer. No publisher can afford to ignore the digital any longer: the tipping point has come and gone; more and more e-books and e-readers are being sold weekly; and authors will begin demanding this, if they haven’t already. And traditional publishers need to offer all things digital to compete with the emerging “digital publishers.”

Who?

Even prior to the migration to digital, publishers would do one of two things to keep costs down: outsource as much as possible, keeping headcount down, or the reverse, which is hire talent to keep all services and costs internal. With digital, publishers have to make this decision anew. Should they invest in new talent from other industries (e.g., technology) or in educating existing talent, those who are eager to learn and have a background in publishing? Or should they turn to one of the many conversion and content solutions providers that exist in the market?

What?

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06/24/2011

E-Books … A Major Shakeup is Coming … Stirred By the Wizard


The Wizaed Cometh

A crossp0st today from my Writers Welcome Blog  (WWB)… One I feel is interesting and important enough to promulgate to those that may not follow WWB:

Pottermore.com is coming! … And bringing with it a real time, online lab that should flush out issues like e-book pricing, eliminating digital booksellers (i.e. Amazon) as the middleman, acceptance of a common format (i.e. ePub) acceptable to all devices across all platforms.

Phewwww! What a statement. Sounds like rocket science when it’s only common sense.

This strategically, ingenious concept will force a faster solution to many bottlenecks created by the various device manufacturers and digital booksellers trying to kidnap the market for its own exclusive profit.

This could only be brought by something so popular and powerful unto itself that it would lend itself to an exclusive sales site, with its own rules, that would draw people away from the status quo.

That power is Harry Potter!

This from paidContent.org by Laura Hazard Owen:

Three Ways Pottermore.com Could Change Book Publishing

After a suspenseful buildup, J. K. Rowling has announced that Pottermore.com will be an e-bookstore, exclusively selling Harry Potter e-books and digital audiobooks. Pottermore could shake up digital publishing as much as the Harry Potter books first shook up print publishing over a decade ago. Here’s how.

Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) will be cut out as the middleman and could be forced to open up the Kindle to new book-publishing formats. Pottermore.com does not officially launch until October, and right now many details are still unclear. But we know that the site will be the only place to buy Harry Potter e-books and that they will be compatible with a range of devices. Rowling stressed that selling the books directly “means we can guarantee people everywhere are getting the same experience and at the same time,” and Pottermore CEO Rod Henwood told The Bookseller, “We want to make sure anyone who buys it can read it on any device. We are talking to the Kindles, the Apples, the Googles, Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS) to make sure they are compatible. We set the pricing, we maintain the policy of making them available to as many readers as possible.”

We don’t know if that means that Pottermore.com will be selling multiple editions of the Harry Potter books—in the Kindle format, say, alongside formats like EPUB—but it seems more likely that the site would sell e-books in just one format, probably EPUB. Right now, the Kindle doesn’t support the EPUB format. But if any author could get Amazon to change its policy, it’s J. K. Rowling. The Kindle has the largest market share of any e-reader in the U.S.—it’s believed to be between 60 and 65 percent—and it would be an incredibly dumb move for Amazon not to allow the Harry Potter e-books to be read on its device. The company would risk losing users to the Barnes & Noble Nook, the Kobo, and other devices that do support EPUB.

In fact, rumors that Amazon is going to start supporting EPUB have been floating around for awhile now, mainly in association with the news that the Kindle will support library lending this fall. Amazon should probably get on the EPUB train by July 31, when Pottermore.com is going to be opened up to a select million users.

Interesting experiments with pricing. Since Rowling is selling the e-books directly, she can do what she wants with pricing. Her UK publisher, Bloomsbury, and her U.S. publisher, Scholastic, are getting a cut, but these books are being …

Read and learn more 

 

 

04/17/2011

Ebook Sales Up 202% Over Last Year – Now King Format for American Publishing


Announcing King Ebook Format!

The digital revolution has caught up with, stomped and overtaken traditional publishing (TP) according to the latest report from the Association of American Publishers (AAP).

AND, this conquering of TP has occurred one year earlier than previously forecasted by industry analysts! How bout them apples?

Of course, anyone who wasn’t in denial saw this coming…the crowning of the e-book as the single bestselling format in American publishing. We just didn’t see it charging so fast!

Welcome, King “E”…how can we serve thee? Or, better yet, how will you serve us? Cheaper prices, faster delivery, more publishing opportunities, etc., etc.? 

I sincerely hope there is an infusion of real money in there somewhere…

Now these details from T3, The Gadget Website:

Ebook sales overtake US paperbacks for the first time

US figures show huge consumer demand for e-readers 

The digital revolution continues apace in the old-tech world of publishing. In the US, the eBook has become the single bestselling format in American publishing for the first time, a year ahead of analysts forecasts.
 
The report from the Association of American Publishers, showed February’s eBook sales were $90.3m (£55.2m), compared to $81.2m (£49.8m) in paperbacks, a leap of 202.3% on the same time last year. Philip Jones, deputy editor of the Bookseller, believes that the UK is set to follow the US trend in the take-up of the technology, “the UK are a year behind but they are catching up quite fast.”

Despite the challenge of the rapidly expanding tablet market, many of which come pre-loaded with an e-reader, the figures show standalone eBook readers have carved out an important niche in a hugely competitive marketplace. Their popularity is down to choice – there are over a million free books on the Amazon Kindle – as well as a lower price-point than tablets, speedy downloads and portability.

Read and learn more

10/11/2009

More Thoughts on the eBook Format…And Kindle eBook Reader


Eldon Sarte, publisher of Wordpreneur, has some additional (and entertaining) thoughts on eBooks and the POD digital world previously expressed in this blog. I like his take on this subject:

My Thoughts on the eBook Format

Prompted by Michael Werner’s comment on yesterday’s News to Use item on the new Amazon Kindle eBook reader, here are my thoughts on ebooks in general. Make of them what you will.

• eBooks are excellent for “instant” on-demand delivery particularly for highly volatile and specialized content (e.g., technical, business, reference, textbooks, etc.).

• As a universal “paper book” replacement, the way ebooks were originally intended and envisioned way back when, they are failures. Why? Because consumers never asked for them. The paper book form factor is cheap, portable, intuitive (and did I say cheap?). So why would the consumer give a futz?

On the contrary, publishers (who were really the ones benefitting from the tech) were pushing it onto the consumer. Who was having none of it, except for areas where the tech made sense (see above).

Enter the Amazon Kindle, which looks like the one that has the closest potential to date to reach “universal traditional book replacement” status. Perfectly timed for the “Think Green” trend (assuming producing it uses up less resources than producing and distributing traditional books). Rich extensive content. And the wireless bit’s a thing of beauty.

But boy, at $399 I think it’s just too gosh-darned expensive for mass adoption. I think that’ll kill its immediate potential and growth. And too bad too; the world may just be ready for such an appliance… a reasonably priced one, though. Not that I can even come close to claiming I know better than Bezos and Co. on this particular subject, after they’ve obviously invested way more time and energy at it than the, what, 5 minutes I spent thinking about it?

On the other hand, they’re lucky they got 5 minutes after I heard that price tag. Cause and effect, hmm?

One last thing: that “tactile” thing Michael mentions (or “curling up with it in front of a fireplace” for you romantics). I fully agree… except that, to be fair, it’s the only reading experience I really know. I can’t honestly say (and chances are, neither can you) that “curling up in front of a fireplace” with Kindle instead of an actual book would be a better or worse experience.

Not yet, anyway. Books are cheap. The Kindle’s $399. I’m in no rush, thank you very much.

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