Guest Column: Lessons in App Publishing
Digital, interactive book apps are booming, especially in the children's space, making this an exciting time to be an app publisher. While some book publishers may still view the app market as uncharted territory with unknown return on investment, I see the app market as fertile ground with opportunities for tremendous growth as new devices are introduced at a rapid pace.
So, how do you take advantage of these opportunities? As an app publisher, here are some of the key lessons that I've learned in the past two years.
'Quality Is Everything'
First, product quality is everything, especially with the app market's competitive nature. Our company has an internal motto: "Five Stars or No Stars." We aim to deliver apps that will receive five-star user ratings, or we do not ship the app. We pay extreme attention to detail—a compelling set of features, an intuitive user experience, professional narration and audio, and bug-free code. Apple's App Store alone currently offers more than 300,000 apps, and a digital publisher will be judged by the quality and functionality of each app in its catalog.
Next, developing our own technology was key, designing it from the ground up to support the specific features that we deemed important. In a sense, apps are living, breathing entities. You don't release an app and walk away (as you might with a traditional book). It needs to be updated and supported. Users also expect feature upgrades over time. By developing and owning our own technology, we had the ability to control all aspects of development, and to port to new platforms. We started by building a number of unique app engines from scratch for the iPhone, which gave us an advantage when we had to adapt these apps for the iPad. Android was tougher, but still manageable. From here, developing apps for other new devices will get easier. The company has been structured to encourage nimble and agile product development, avoiding lengthy development cycles.