Are apps cannibalising or complementing publishers’ content?
We’ve all heard about ‘online’ and we’ve all heard about eBooks – are they an exciting new revenue stream for publishing or are they destroying our wonderful industry? We’ve all had the debate, internally and with colleagues, and I think most of us have come to the conclusion that online publishing may take some adjusting to but does allow for innovation and for us to reach new audiences. But there is another question mark in this world of ‘digital’. Applications?
At London Book Fair ’s Tech Tuesday last week. Stuart Dredge (The Guardian), Dean Johnson (Brandwidth), Louise Rice (Touch Press) and James Huggins (Made In Me) all told their story of how mobile / tablet applications can apply to the publishing industry. Story telling did indeed become a theme of the event as the message was clear to cast aside the idea of format and focus on the story. Whether the content is delivered in a print book, an eBook or an app, it is important that the story is of good quality and told well. Apps can enhance the way a story is told, making it an interactive and engaging experience for the reader.
Apps need to be given more attention by publishers, invested in more. They shouldn’t be, as Stuart Dredge put it, DVD extras, a second thought after the books are produced but should be in the spotlight. We could even develop a Spotify model, allowing users to share reading lists and see who else is reading your favourite book.
The engaging nature of apps means they have a lot to offer the Education market. Students can click, tap and swipe their way through course materials and study guides. While school tablets seem a forward thinking, modern concept, Louise Rice told their story as she has seen them evolve over a number of years in Australia as a fantastic one stop shop for all their textbooks. The challenge is certainly not in the technology but rather in the teachers and users as they come to understand effective ways of using the tablets.
And this comes to the answer to our question. Apps have the power to complement the publishing industry, allowing readers to engage and experience stories in an exciting new way but (and there is a but!) if we don’t develop or use them well or if we don’t understand their value they have no chance but to be a significant expense to the publisher and a side line thought to the consumer who may turn their attention to other, more enticing applications.
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