Apps With Sass
Want some sass with that app? You should, if you want to get noticed in the increasingly crowded app marketplace, where your app needs to be clever, engaging and useful to pique a potential user's interest. Book Business toiled away in the app mines and unearthed these gems in which publishers do creative, fun or powerful things with book apps to really hook audiences. Just as each book is different, each app here highlights or builds on specific qualities of the subject to create a memorable and unique experience for readers. Whether leading you through a mystery or daring you to be more thoughtful, these book apps stand out as polished stones amid the fool's gold.
Associated Title: "Ripley's Believe it or Not! Strikingly True"
Developer: Conjure Ltd.
Availability: iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch
The Ripley iSword app, which plays off the side-show staple (and a big Ripley's draw) of sword swallowing, is a great example of a publisher capturing the style and hook (or should we say blade?) of a signature product line and distilling it into a fun, game-style app. Ripley's Believe It or Not decided to create its first-ever app in conjunction with the release of this year's eighth consecutive edition of the "Ripley's Believe it or Not! Strikingly True" annual.
"We very much wanted to provide something that was new and entertaining for the user, which would also introduce them to elements of the Ripley's Believe it or Not! brand, particularly 'Ripley's Believe it or Not! Strikingly True' and our chain of amusement attractions," says Norm Deska, executive vice president of intellectual property at Ripley Entertainment Inc. "Ripley has a great deal of content which can be delivered through apps, but we wanted to limit the scope to one area and create a game/activity that was unique and that related to the subject chosen. We chose sword swallowing."
The app, launched Sept. 13, offers a game where a sword must be correctly aimed down a swallower's throat and a way for the user to simulate swallowing a sword using augmented reality (AR) technology. "The … camera interacts with a sword so you can simulate swallowing a sword yourself," Deska says. "To our knowledge, we were the first to use AR in an app in this way."
The company's UK editorial team worked closely with app developer Conjure Ltd. to ensure brand relevance. In addition to the games, the app also features content from Ripley's books and video about the company's museums.
Takeaway Tip: A fun app that's aligned with your brand is great for title marketing and awareness.
Developer: PC Studio Inc.
Price: Free, with in-app purchasing for additional content
Availability: iPad (custom version), iPhone, iPod Touch, Android and Nook
Young adult fiction writer Patrick Carman is no stranger to multimedia books, having made a splash a few years ago with the "Skeleton Creek" book and video project for Scholastic. For his latest book, "Dark Eden" (HarperCollins), Carman raises the bar. The accompanying Dark Eden app gives young readers an absorbing, serialized way to experience a creepy, suspense-filled story the author describes as "Shutter Island for teens."
The movie analogy is no accident. "It's almost like we made a book and a movie," Carman says. "It's a media-driven version of the story, so it's like, 'Hey, I love the book—I want to experience the app too.'" The app certainly works in tandem with the book, but it stands on its own as well, offering the entire story in 14 installments. With the free app, readers get the first part; subsequent episodes are 99 cents each and appear weekly between now and Christmas. Users can also buy all 14 in advance for a discounted $9.99.
While the book and app were conceived as stand-alone projects, the timing of their releases created a clever way to drive readers to the book, and vice versa. The app was deliberately released first, on Sept. 21, followed by the book on Nov. 1, meaning all those young adults who started reading the story on their phones or tablets could go out and buy the whole story in print if they were too engrossed to wait until Christmas to find out how it ends. Conversely, readers of the print edition can check out videos of the characters, listen to audio diary readings and explore a map of the story to unlock keys and clues.
"With Dark Eden, I really wanted to find a way to put the reader into a story. That is the part that is most exciting to me," Carman says. "I see it as re-imagining old ideas for a new audience. The app develops stories in the same way they did back in the day when they used to do serialized novels [in magazines]."
While the app does not include built-in social features, it does offer numerous links to the "Dark Eden" Facebook page, taking readers directly to the community of people reading the story.
The app was developed by Carman internally through his own in-house design studio. "We had a little bit of outside help, but for the most part we built everything in the app and all the technology ourselves," he said, with Harper Collins giving the project "a long leash." Available on Apple's iOS and Android, with a custom version developed specifically for the iPad featuring HD videos and graphics, full screen text and a different layout for the chapters. The app is also available through the Nook store.
Takeaway Tip: Apps can get readers who might not have picked up the printed book hooked on the story, and enhance the experience for all.
The Love Dare: 40 Dares; The Love Dare (e-book app with Bible reader); The Love Dare: Reminders
Developer: Olive Tree Bible Software Inc.
Price: 99 cents; $9.99 for the complete book
Availability: iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch
Soon after the release of "The Love Dare," B&H Publishing's bestselling guide for married couples built around daily devotionals—or "dares" (such as "resolve to … say nothing negative to your spouse")—meant to reaffirm and strengthen the marriage bond, it was decided the content would work well in various forms as an app. In addition to releasing the complete book in app format (with extra features such as tie-ins to Bible verses), B&H decided to produce two separate apps: a scaled-down version of the 40 dares, as well as an app featuring a daily quote (Reminders) readers can e-mail to friends or share on Facebook and Twitter.
"The content of 'The Love Dare' greatly lent itself to the app format, with readers being able to engage at different depths and even different commitment levels," reads a statement B&H Publishing provided to Book Business. "The book is structured as a 40-day journey, which lends itself to being able to progress through the content at a specific pace."
The daily quote app reaches deeper into the book's content to extend the interactive 40-day experience over a full 365 days. "Our goal was to allow people to not simply read the content of 'The Love Dare,' but to actually interact with the content at a level appropriate for their interests," the publisher states.
The Love Dare apps that utilize select content from the book retail in the App Store for 99 cents, while the complete book app sells for $9.99. The apps are currently available on the iOS platform.
Takeaway Tip: Consider how apps can help audiences do "deeper dives" into your content.
Biscuit Visits the Pumpkin Patch
Developer: FrogDogMedia LLC (iStorytime)
Availability: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch and Nook
Having been around for two and a half years (which in the app world counts as old-school), FrogDogMedia has learned a thing or two about designing children's book apps. "We're the oldest kid on the monkey bars," jokes Graham Farrar of FrogDogMedia, which publishes e-books under the iStorytime brand. In Biscuit Visits the Pumpkin Patch, young readers follow the adventures of a puppy named Biscuit as he romps among the gourds, jumps into wheelbarrows and finds hidden bones.
"It's got the highlighted text and the narration. It also has animation on every page. It's almost like a digital pop-up," Farrar says. "On each page there's a bone or two hidden. When the kids click on [one], it pops up and says, 'Great job!' In the end [it] tallies up how much they've found. Something that simple, from a technical standpoint, does not blow your socks off, but my kids will not let a page go by without finding a bone."
The book app also has a virtual sticker book and coloring book at the end, so enthusiastic young readers can e-mail their creations to grandma. Kids can read the book unaided or have the book read to them, and a highlighted text option helps in word-learning. "It's the same way you would teach a kid if you were holding them on your lap," Farrar says.
"What we're trying to find is something that the kids enjoy and that's helpful for the parents—not a substitute to reading to the kids at night, but for all those times when you're driving or you're working and need to keep them occupied," he says. "It's the next best thing to you reading [to them]. At least they are still reading the book. With apps in the $2 to $3 range, my kids go through these books 50 times. A penny a minute of entertained kid—that's a pretty good deal!"
Takeaway Tip: Keep it simple, and get in touch with your inner child. (Farrar might say it helps to have a kid of your own around, but Book Business can only go so far in what it recommends in its tips!)
Garfield's Pet Force
Developer: Castle Builders
Available: iPad, PC and Mac
As part of its BooClips line of apps, Castle Builders integrates videos into visually striking interactive books. BooClips apps' features include narration with a voice-over recording feature, animated magnifying glass and bookmark, language translation, and sign language interpretation. Embedded videos are in HD with a 3-D interface that's enabled by using red-blue glasses.
According to Ori Abramovich, Castle Builders' vice president of marketing, the new Garfield's Pet Force app takes these technologies to a new level. "We have improved the graphic engine behind the app on the Garfield BooClip, have added more animations and enabled the videos at all times," he says.
"We love Garfield, and we had a great feeling that its content would be a brilliant fit for our technology," Abramovich says. "Jim Davis' 'Garfield's Pet Force,' written for a motion picture in computer-generated imagery (CGI) … delivered the right balance of storytelling and action to complement abilities of this high-tech app."
Garfield's Pet Force features numerous clips from the movie and is aimed at kids ages 6 to 12. Other BooClips apps, such as LazyTown, are designed for younger, emerging readers. The app is available on the iPad, PC and Mac, with launches planned this fall on Android, Nook and Kindle Fire.
Takeaway Tip: Roll out the red carpet for your star.
Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis
Developer: Melcher Media (content) and PushPop Press (platform)
Price: $4.99 (Introductory)
Availability: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch
Al Gore's "Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis" was originally released by Rodale Inc. in 2009. It received the app treatment earlier this year, winning praise for its sophisticated interactive and multimedia features designed to bring key concepts of the book to life.
In addition to narration from the former vice president and cool interactive features—such as making windmills go 'round by blowing into the device's microphone—the app features an hour of documentary footage, numerous photographs, and interactive charts, graphics and animation. A visual table of contents allows for easy navigation through the book's 19 chapters and lets users quickly zoom in on specific sections.
"The Our Choice app lets the reader visualize and absorb information in a completely new way," Charles Melcher, president of Melcher Media, said in a press release. Melcher believes that the merging of form and content to create an "interactive, kinetic learning experience" brings an unprecedented level of sophistication to the app. Others seem to agree: Our Choice won a 2011 Apple Design Award, which recognizes products the company believes "set new standards for the developer community to follow."
For anyone looking for an accessible guide to climate research and practical solutions to help solve the crisis, Our Choice fits the bill.
Takeaway Tip: Heavy books need app love, too. BB