Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.
Imagine all the iOS apps in the world were crammed into your local flagship Apple store – icon by icon. Now picture this, the book apps wouldn’t even account for a few steps on the iconic glass staircase. Someone navigating the store could easily rush right past and ignore them. This is not just because there are fewer, but more importantly because awareness in consumer circles is as slight as the physical space they would occupy in this picture – so, there’s no impetus to seek them out.
This visual uses some artistic license to highlight two realities:
- Even with 40,000+ book apps, there remains a vast, untapped opportunity to create them relative to other app categories (there are over 900,000 total apps, 150,000 of which are games)
- Book apps are just not top of mind for downloaders – when they think apps, they don’t think books
Enter The Book App Alliance – a newly launched trade association that seeks to educate parents and teachers about how to find and use quality digital book apps. The group intends to reduce some of the key challenges faced by all book app creators by getting them to join together, competition aside, to share resources for the greater good of strengthening the overall market.
Karen Robertson, president of The Book App Alliance and author of the award-winning Treasure Kai book app series for children says, “I discovered many children’s book app makers were having the same experience… we were finding that many parents didn’t know what book apps were. But when we’d show them, they were blown away and wanted to know more about book apps and where to find them.”
Our experience at Wasabi Productions echoes this sentiment, and it fuels our optimism about the future when we see the positive reaction to our book apps in the hands of an audience who simply never knew reading experiences like that existed. Coupled with the broader context of new device announcements like iPad Air, continued exponential growth in tablet and mobile device sales and adoption – book apps are still a proverbial land of opportunity. Reading and the importance of literacy certainly aren’t going anywhere. If The Book App Alliance can make an impact; publishers, authors, developers and readers of all ages win.
The alliance defines book apps as interactive books delivered on a touchscreen mobile device, such as an iPad or Kindle Fire or “an eBook on steroids” according to Robertson. This is because the most innovative book apps provide immersive, sensory storytelling experiences that engage, delight and educate. The group prides itself on quality and is not something anyone can join – it is intended for leading and innovative book app authors and membership is by online application.
Besides educating the market about the fundamentals of what a book app is, how they can be used at home and in schools and for what benefits, the new community is focused on showcasing top-quality book apps that face the discoverability issues that all developers grapple with in flooded app ecosystems.
The alliance is working with industry leading review site, Digital Storytime, to help parents and teachers find top quality book apps. Once the appetite for book apps has been stirred in a family, “parents have a hard time knowing which ones are amazing and which ones will disappoint, so many choose brands they know like Disney, Dora and Dr. Seuss,” said Carisa Kluver, a California mom and founder of Digital Storytime. “Having reviewed over 750 book apps, one of our goals is to shine some light on these hidden gems in the App Store, and support the authors who are innovating books and story time.”
Apple’s recent introduction of the Kids category, which is navigated by age range (0-5, 6-8 and 9-11), had the hopes of children’s book app developers high in its promise of another gateway for surfacing family-friendly content. However, it emerged as another editorially curated section rather than a new filter for all cross-category kids content by age, creating widespread disillusionment. This is not to say it is ineffective; with less content displaying in this section, being ‘chosen’ here is powerful, and gave Wasabi approximately a 60% uplift on downloads in the time periods and regions where the features aired.
Other than producing a high quality product, developers have no control or influence over these editorial features with Apple – yet they remain the most significant drivers of sales. It’s no surprise then that organizations like The Book App Alliance are being born to take control over short-term issues of education, discoverability and awareness that, when solved, could really change the game for digital book app publishing.
It’s a fine time to be part of the book app industry, which I have no doubt will be shaped and moulded by its earliest advocates into a formidable channel of the publishing future. As The Book App Alliance shows, it’s still small enough to be a welcoming, supportive community and for each individual to make a marked difference in theirs and their colleagues future success. So, what are you waiting for?
** Apple Store image provided by Shutterstock.com