Buyer's Guide: The Nuts & Bolts of Apps & Ebooks
The benefit of working with a provider is that it precludes publishers from needing to invest heavily in software, rework their production process, or reevaluate organizational skillsets. Matthew Cavnar, co-founder of ebook platform Vook, says most publishers simply don't have the bandwidth to take on the expanded roles that come with digital production. "The production, distribution, the sales reporting, the analytics—all of these pieces need to be handled." Providers have the expertise to do this, and that can be a huge help for publishers still experimenting with new digital products.
Like software, providers are not a cure-all. Without clear communication between publisher and provider, the project could easily derail. MarkLogic's Paul O'Neill recommends publishers do their homework before approaching a provider. "The first thing publishers need to do when looking for a vendor, is learn the vocabulary of ebooks, which is web development." Not only will a better understanding of terminology help narrow down the vendor search, but it will also help publishers better articulate their challenges and goals to vendors.
O'Neill also recommends better quality assurance in the demo phase of the provider search. Publishers should push providers to construct an entire title from a completed manuscript instead of just a partial ebook. "If you are looking for a long-term relationship, it makes sense to insist on seeing what is truly indicative of future work. And, if the test run works out, they've already ticked a project off their list."
For any of these ebook solutions, publishers need a plan in place. Technology solutions aren't a strategy but rather the tools needed to execute strategy. "Don't come to these solutions thinking they will deliver you an audience," says Cavnar. "Come with an audience and find the right solution for them."
Apps: Engaging a Mobile Audience
Book apps come with their own set of considerations. Generally publishers can pursue two types of app creation strategies. The first is the one-off book app, which could be an incredibly rich reading experience like an interactive children's book. A one-off could also take the form an accompaniment to a title. Quirk Books, for example, created the Baby Owner's Data Tracker, which recreates a tool featured in the correlating title, The Baby Owner's Manual. The app allows new parents to track feeding and sleeping schedules on one platform. "It took something from the book and made it more user-friendly," says John McGurk, director of digital and print production.