Electric Book Works Web, mobile and print publications

Publishing and software development

Ebooks range from simple PDF to interactive applications, but they are all, at some level, software. Here’s a well-known example.

And it’s not just for magazines. Here’s a quirky iPad reimagining of Alice in Wonderland.

And making software is often quite different from making physical objects. So the decision about titles on next year’s frontlist is one that depends on your enthusiasm for software development. Can your organisation handle software development, or will it just be a distraction?

Making even a small leap into software development could, potentially, offer a cushion to declining print sales, as books compete more and more for people attention against movies, music, and social media. But that change comes with its risks and challenges.

To decide, try to separate your in-house expertise in paper-based products from your in-house expertise in the curation of content. Till recently, curating content and making a good-looking book have been so intertwined that they are almost indistinguishable. But they are different skills.

Are you a company that makes beautiful, crafted physical objects? Perhaps stick with paper books: if you’re making them well, they will sell. Perhaps even more so as the rise of ebooks makes gorgeous physical ones all the more special.

Are you a company that primarily finds and makes great content? Then start selling that content electronically, and making it even more useful or convenient to consume. If you have tech skills in-house too, all the better. But you don’t have to be producing a crazy Alice in Wonderland – a well-put-together text-only ebook is a triumph of simplicity, and lets readers focus on the magic of the words alone.

Arthur Attwell 16 April 2010
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