The E-book and App Equation
Posted on January 30, 2011 by Melita M. Pereira
James McQuivey of Forrester recently presented data at the Digital World Book conference in New York from a survey he had conducted with 35 executives representing 27 publishers. The collated results indicate some interesting opinions and attitudes about the current status of publishing and e-books in particular. From McQuivey’s statistics, it would seem that many executives are optimistic about the future of publishing in the digital arena. 83% believe that their companies have the capacity to compete in the emerging digital environment and 74% believe that the influx of digital texts will leave readers “better off”.
What was perhaps most interesting about McQuivey’s study were his statistics in relation to apps. Since the fully innovated e-book may be envisaged as a hybrid of increased interactivity and multifarious media, do apps represent all that innovators and readers alike have been hoping for?
The reality is that apps could be quite far away from representing the ultimate embodiment of e-book innovation. According to McQuivey’s survey, 49% of executives believe that apps are too expensive to develop at this point in time. Nonetheless, 46% of executives believe that apps have the capacity to dramatically alter reading experiences. Given that this is the case, it is interesting to learn that only a third of the executives surveyed believe that apps present a significant revenue opportunity for publishers.
Eric Freese of Aptara has delivered a very interesting presentation (27 July 2010) in which he makes a distinction between ebooks and apps. He suggests that apps should be considered considered to be a form of an enhanced e-book. So, while books that are currently recognised as enhanced e-books may “go beyond the digital snapshot of a printed book”, an app is “[p]erceived to be more feature-rich” providing access to the “full functionality of a platform”.
Despite Freese’s definitions, I am undecided about the extent to which an app should be considered to be a mere extension of an e-book. At the current time, apps offer more “enhancements” to a user’s experience than are currently available with e-books, no matter how advanced or enhanced (eg. internal linking, annotations, collapsable table of contents). Accordingly, I am more inclined to view an app as an ideal vehicle through which publishers can galvanise the full spectrum of possibilities available to readers in an era of digital media.
As Freese points out, some of those various forms of enhancements include:
- Media (audio, video, screencasts, animations)
- Enhanced content (covers, annotations, accessible, supplemental)
- Social (sharing, social reading, social networks)
- Device-based (geo-location)
- Interactivity (games, analytics, transmedia)
The creation of apps that incorporate these features to enhance e-books could encapsulate for readers exactly what all the hype about digital media has been promising.