Buyer's Guide: The Nuts & Bolts of Apps & Ebooks
This article is from the Book Business Buyer's Guide which is a publisher's reference on emerging technology in the book industry. You can find other Buyer's Guide Sections here:
Ebook & App Solutions
> The State of Ebooks 2014
Digital Workflow & Conversion Services
Although digital tech has been transforming the book industry since the CD-ROM hit the scene, publishers have yet to master digital books the way they have printed pages. Because the digital book form continues to evolve, publishers are in a perpetual state of experimentation, testing out app products or introducing interactivity into their ebooks. The industry is still discovering which digital products resonate and how best to produce them.
Here we will specifically explore ebooks and apps, but browser-based ebooks are another platform publishers may want to consider. O'Reilly's Safari Books Online is one example of this.
Ebook vs. App
While ebooks and apps can be very similar, they differ in how they are produced and in their overall capabilities. Ebooks, often built on a standard specification such as EPUB, allow for a large degree of automation in production and greater device compatibility. And though ebooks are more scalable than apps, there are greater limitations on the variety of user experiences they can deliver and publishers are forced to conform to the capabilities of the given software platform.
On the other hand, a book app is essentially a customized software application for which programmers write code to directly develop the user experience rather than working with an authoring tool. Because apps are individually coded by computer programmers, they are much more versatile.
Muddying the distinction between ebooks and apps is the enhanced ebook, which like an app incorporates multimedia, such as slideshows, audio, and video. Also, the EPUB 3 standard, powered by HTML 5, is making ebooks as we know them much more flexible.
Ellen Harvey is a freelance writer and editor who covers the latest technologies and strategies reshaping the publishing landscape. She previously served as the Senior Editor at Publishing Executive and Book Business.