Are apps cannibalising or complementing publishers’ content? – LBF’s Tech Tuesday

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.

Here at Inspired Selection, we are passionate about the publishing industry; we talk about publishing, read about publishing and attend all major publishing events like the one you’ve just read about.  We would love to meet you at events so do feel free to come up and introduce yourselves! If you’re interested in opportunities within publishing do keep in touch and register for our Vacancy Update Service as well as keeping up to date with us on Twitter


How is technology influencing the size and shape of what we read?


Last night we attended Byte the Book at the gorgeous Club at the Ivy where a superb panel of experts were there to discuss: ‘How is technology influencing the size and shape of what we read?’ We heard from Ravina Bajwa, Managing Editor of Penguin Audiobooks, Benedict Evans, Analyst at Enders Analysis, Richard Loncraine, Director at Heuristic Media and Maureen Evans, Director at Ether Books.

Benedict Evans was quick to point out that there are three key issues in technology influencing what and how we read:

1.)    Distribution of content – digital changes the cost structure, hence it is more economical to be interactive with content

2.)    Ubiquity – pop culture is more accessible

3.)    The changing role of intermediaries – the market is no longer driven by logistics and you don’t need to go through the typical agent-publisher-wholesaler-bookshop supply chain.

Publishers and App Developers are now having to think of more innovative ways to overcome digital challenges; Ether Books have been successful in producing short ‘snacking’ digital content under 6000 words. They are proving that with mobile devices, it is important to also have ‘mobile’ content – short form is much more accessible on people’s devices, however previously there has been a gap in the market for books produced solely for digital. Ravina at Penguin has found the opposite where consumers want longer, unabridged content when it comes to listening to audio books. This has proven to be a huge advantage of digital; they have found new distribution opportunities to get the content to consumers as well as innovative ideas in order to mix sound effects and narrative elements together.

Technology is becoming a huge influence on how and what we read, but how is this going to change in the future and what are Publishers and App Developers doing to drive this forwards?

Ravina from Penguin discussed the launch of the entire Roald Dhal backlist in new Audio Book format. This will feature an exciting cast of high profile celebrities and brand new compositions to highlight his work and really create a picture in listener’s imaginations through the many dimensions of sound. Loncraine touched upon the launch of haptic touchscreens; however, it seems these are still at least a decade away in innovation. Benedict Evans talked about the innovation within App Development but shared interesting facts about the obstacles that still exist to getting your app noticed. For example, across iOS there are about 4 apps downloaded per month per device and only a dollar spent; the real problem is discoverability.

In summary, the future of what we read and how we read is still up for grabs, there is so much innovation out there in terms of devices, apps, as well as inventive ways of using and delivering content. However, it would be wrong to assume that everything will be sucked up into the digital mass, in the same way that when colour printing came out not everything became colour. It was pointed out that the way we feel about our childhood computer is the way today’s children will feel about the iPad; there is a huge generation of developers and technological genius out there that we have no real idea what is going to be around in 20 years time and it’s going to be an exciting journey to find out…