Ebook or App? How to Decide

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Publishers today are faced with a wide range of choices when moving from print to digital delivery. Should an eBook (or enhanced eBook) be produced or would an app provide a better user experience? …

Publishers today are faced with a wide range of choices when moving from print to digital delivery. Should an eBook (or enhanced eBook) be produced or would an app provide a better user experience? This discussion will touch on the options, the challenges and the opportunities of each of these options.

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  • Do a search on Google for enhanced ebooks and you will find that there’s a divergence of opinion on them. The main critique falls into three areas.

    The first opinion states that enhanced ebooks with embedded video, sound and graphics, takes away from the enjoyment of the book because the enhanced ebook intrudes on the reader’s ability to imagine the story in his mind. The very popular Harry Potter books loved by children are used as a prime example.

    This opinion states that any attempt to add greater dimensions to the Harry Potter story telling like the movies takes away from the imagination of the children. But that’s a false argument.

    Sure, when a child reads a Harry Potter book, he or she congers up a vivid picture in their mind of the characters and environment in the book. Those critics hold that the movies made from those books somehow take away from that imagination process.

    But if that were true, how do you account form the hundreds of millions of dollars each book in the series has generated as a movie? And most of the audience for these movies are the children that read the Harry Potter book. The children enjoyed both versions of the story telling and it did little to take way their imagination of the story.

    Of course, the professional handling of the book material by the movie studio did the story justice. As in anything creative – it has bee done well.

    The second critique of enhanced ebooks comes from those that say the imbedded multimedia and extended material interrupts the reading experience. They claim, rightfully so, that the embedded video, audio and links to the Internet within the text interrupts the reading of the book. But Trapdoor Books has recognized this problem and placed its multimedia and outside links in what is called the ‘marginalia’ that sits along the outside column of the text. This marginalia can be totally turned off and the reader can read just text.

    The third critique has nothing to do with the reading experience. It has to do with economics — the cost of producing enhanced ebooks. This is a valid critique. It does cost more to produce an enhanced book. Thus the retail cost of the ebook is higher than the traditional ebook.

    But Trapdoor Books has found a solution to that. Their enhanced books are FREE. They are advertising supported and that revenue pays for the production of the ebook.

    So, Trapdoor Books has found the way to meet the objections of the enhanced book skeptics.

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  • 1. eBook or App? How to Decide
    Eric Freese
    May 3, 2011
  • 2. Aptara background
    • 2
  • Enhanced eBooks University – E2BU
    Identifies a catalog of 27 types of enhancements including:
    Media (audio, video, screencasts, animations)
    Enhanced content (covers, annotations, accessible, supplemental)
    Social (sharing,social reading, social networks)
    Device-based (geo-location, accelerometer)
    Interactivity (games, analytics, transmedia)
    Apps are considered a form of enhanced eBook
  • 3. Enhanced eBooks
    eBooks that go beyond a digital snapshot of a printed book
    Data files (based on a standard) that can be viewed/processed by a variety of platforms/devices
    Base data files (non-DRM) are interoperable between devices that support the same standard
    Dependent on access being provided by target platform
  • 4. Apps
    Programs written to run on a specific platform
    e.g. the Kindle for iPad and Kindle for Android are different programs
    May be based on published materials
    Interoperability cannot be guaranteed
    App written for iPhone will run on iPad, but there are iPad apps that won’t run on iPhone
    Generally easier access to functionality provided by target platform
  • 5. Enhanced eBooks vs. apps
    Enhanced eBooks
    Easier to develop
    Generally less expensive
    Some degree of interoperability
    Functionality dependent on platform and standards
    Requires custom development expertise
    Access to full functionality of platform
    Perceived to be more feature-rich
  • 6. Enhanced eBook concepts
    Based on eBook functionality, maintain all the good things about eBooks (reflow, portability, etc.)
    The EPUB standard supports enhanced eBooks now
    Many perceived limitations come from eReader implementations, not the standard
    EPUB3 will provide greater support
    Graceful degradation
    Support new capabilities without abandoning the installed base
  • 7. Sample eBook enhancements
    Collapsible Table of Contents
    Hidden searchable text
    Internal linking (footnotes/annotations/cross references/indexes)
    External linking (geolocation/directions/associated websites)
  • 8. Collapsible table of contents
    Allows easier navigation of large content
    Can be set up in EPUB file
    Display controlled by device/software
  • 9. Hidden searchable text
    Allows users to search on terms that might not occur in the content
  • 10. Bidirectional linking
  • 11. Inline footnotes/annotations
    Allows extra data to be shown inline
    Reduces back page confusion
    Can result in cluttered display
  • 12. Popup footnotes
    Reduces clutter and confusion
    Uses Javascript in background
    Works on eReaders built on browser interface
  • 13. External linking
    Opens browser in separate window – iBooks prompts user before leaving
  • 14. Audio
    HREF method opens new app window
    HTML5 Audio tag works within reader app
  • 15. Video
  • 16. Interactivity
  • 17. Varied results
  • 18. Enhancement considerations
    Enhancements should be dictated by the content, not vice versa
    eBooks, enhanced eBooks and apps should receive the same level of planning as print materials
    Considergraceful degradation
    Allows files to work on widest range of devices possible by building in fallbacks
    Keep finished file sizes in mind
    Test on all target devices
  • 19. Fixed format pages
    Provides functionality to preserve page layout
    Based on XHTML – not PDF
    Suggested application: children’s books, cookbooks, art (coffee table) books
    Only supported by iBooks
  • 20. Late breaking news: EPUB3
  • 21. Book-based apps
  • 22. Using apps to enhance books
  • 23. App development considerations
    No ‘apps for the sake of apps’
    Separate content from programming as much as possible to capitalize on portability
    Use open standards whenever possible
  • 24. Questions?