COVER STORY: Inside the Ebook Test Kitchen
This is the credo of New York's MAZ (an acronym of sorts for the portmanteau MagAppZine), a company founded by another Apple alum, Paul Canetti. As the company's name suggests, MAZ got its start in the magazine world (Canetti is also a former magazine designer) but quickly figured out that its technologies also applied to the book world.
MAZ's app-based platform is inspired by Canetti's experience as a designer—and frustrations he'd experienced having his designs translated by programmers. "The idea was that we needed something where a designer can design a page and make it functional without a programmer," says Canetti.
To that end, MAZ has empowered its clients to do some pretty interesting things with their books. Black Balloon Publishing's "Louise: Amended" is a title in which "every chapter is told through the perspective of a different character," says Canetti. "You can read in the order in which they're published, or you can choose to read in another order, and it changes the unfolding of the story."
Another MAZ client, Sullivan Street Press, has created "living books" for its "Scags" series, which allows interaction with the author and other readers through a social media portal within the book.
And publishers keep finding new applications. MAZ clients have produced cookbooks in which each recipe links to online grocer Fresh Direct—and pre-populates a shopping list based on that recipe's ingredients. "Now, anyone I've talked to who's remotely writing about food is like, 'Oh, my god, you've got to do the Fresh Direct thing,'" says Canetti.
"You control the entire thing from front to end. How can we empower the creative person to make it functional?"
As with a magazine app, MAZ and other book apps can ensure that the most current version of a book is always the one a reader is interacting with. If there's a correction, it's pushed out to devices—think of how the app store updates Angry Birds. And as with a magazine app, MAZ brings a level of creativity to a process that once didn't go far beyond font selection and endpapers.