As e-reader adoption in the U.S. wanes and consumers buy more tablet computers, publishers are scrambling to provide the enhanced, innovative reading experiences readers are coming to expect. It’s not just about the straight-text ebook anymore.
Wine Simplified, an app from Open Air Publishing exemplifies the best in innovative reading experiences. It won a Publishing Innovation Award (now the Digital Book Awards) for best nonfiction app from Digital Book World in January 2013 at the Digital Book World Conference + Expo in new York. (See the rest of the 2013 winners here.)
The app helps users understand the finer points of choosing wines. The easy-to-use app is aimed at giving users the ability to confidently peruse wine lists at restaurants and racks of bottles at stores with confidence. It has earned a five-star rating from the iTunes store users (from 28 reviews).
We corresponded through email with Open Air Publishing to learn move about this award-winning project.
Digital Book World: What qualitative objectives did you seek to achieve when you initiated this project? This award notwithstanding, are you satisfied you achieved this goal?
Open Air: The goal was to use technology to solve the complex and often circular challenges of explaining wine to a novice enthusiast. Wine is an incredibly nuanced topic, and in order to master the larger and ultimately more useful concepts like wine pairings, you first have to understand more basic terms like “body,” “acidity,” and “tannin.” This situation can be problematic in traditional print media, because the reader either needs to come to the book having already mastered the basic terminology or has to spend a lot of time reading about it before even getting to the good stuff. In “Wine Simplified,” on the other hand, textual explanations are integrated with multimedia features (pop-up definitions, instructional videos, and audio pronunciation guides), allowing the reader to dive right into the larger concepts, picking up the necessary supporting details as they go.
DBWO: What in your opinion is the one thing that made it unique and cool?
OA: What really sets “Wine Simplified” apart is the educational approach we took — simple and straightforward — both via the written portion of the book and the design. For one, the language we used was as free of jargon as possible. Not the flowery, pretentious marketing language typical of wine literature, but instead what we called the “Sesame Street of Wine.” Keep it simple; keep it relatable.
Similarly, we went for light and bright imagery and design. Instead of the oppressive dark reds of most wine books, we turned to fun primary and neon colors to keep it fun. Our graphics were designed with simple concepts in mind
DBW: If you had to do it all over again, is there anything you would have done differently? If so, what?
OA: We would have loved to spend more time integrating e-commerce into the book. One of the most challenging wine tasks is buying the wine itself, and helping people make that leap and get more comfortable with wine commerce would be a huge win for us. Turns out, helping people buy wine online is a huge challenge because of byzantine laws on selling/buying wine that are different state-by-state. Sites like wine.com are great, but their reach is relatively limited. If we could start over, we would have loved to start thinking about these integrations much earlier in the process to really optimize what is possible in this world.
DBW: As more people buy iPads and other tablets and publishers try to create more interesting content, what new things are you excited to see come out?
OA: We would love to see more tools to do really interesting and innovative production across platforms (Android phones and tablets, Kindle), but without starting from scratch for each one — some sort of universal development platform, you could say. Obviously this is no small feat, given that each device has different functionality.
DBW: Are you currently working on anything we should be looking forward to? If so, please share!
OA: At Open Air Publishing, our next huge project is “Ready, Set, Baby!,” a flagship book that’s a parent’s guide to baby’s first year. Much like “Wine Simplified,” “Ready, Set Baby!” uses instructional videos, infographics, and audio samples to help readers, in this case new or expectant parents, defeat anxiety and master necessary skills in a fun, relaxed way. In many ways, though, it’s been a broader endeavor than our previous books. We’ve worked with a much longer list of collaborators, consulting experts in a wide range of relevant fields: breastfeeding, sleep, baby hygiene and food safety, infant development and pediatrics, emergency life-saving techniques, car-seat installation, and safe transportation. And the book’s content is obviously a little more serious (for example, the information in our car seat installation chapter will actually help save lives), so we’re excited to be expanding our tone and our brand.
Wine Simplified Credits
Author: Marnie Old
Featured Contributor: Anthony Giglio
Executive Producer: Alison Go
Head of Development: Amir Cohen
Design Director: Derrick Schultz
Assistant Executive Producer: Jon Feldman
Production Assistants: Laura Turner Garrison, Sarah Raymond, David Rhoderick, Beth Kaplan, Jerry Li, Allegra Rosenbaum, Zachary Thigpen
Video Producers, Directors, and Editors: Giancarlo Fiorentini & Jonathan Grimm
Sound Technician: Anthony Viera
Photographer: Adam Weinberg
Publisher: Open Air Publishing
App Promo Video: