One of the problems that publishers of illustrated titles face when it comes to creating compelling digital products for consumers is the cost.
Building enhanced ebooks with video, audio and other interactive elements can be expensive and consumers aren’t yet buying enough $10 or $15 interactive ebooks to make the costs worthwhile. Apps can also be expensive to produce and are at even lower price points. To make matters more difficult, publishers are just getting used to helping readers discover their titles through established ebook retail channels and are not yet expert in having their apps discovered in the iTunes or Google Play stores.
While the problems of lack of consumer demand and discovery are thorny ones, Papertrell, a Bangalore-based app developer, may have found a solution to the problem of cost.
The company has created a system to build templates for apps for multiple platforms at a tiny cost per platform. Papertrell charges publishers $400 per platform to develop an app across five platforms — Apple, Windows, Google, Kindle and Nook — bringing the cost of app development down to about $2,000. As recently as last year, publishers were reporting that a “professionally” developed app could cost more than $100,000.
The catch is that Papertrell also takes 20% of profits from each sale (after the retailer takes out its cut). (Also not considered is the cost of purchasing and developing the intellectual property — but that is a cost born across print and digital platforms and one that is somewhat divorced from the onerous costs of app and enhanced ebook development.) There is also a $200 per year subscription fee for publishers to work with Papertrell.
Papertrell developed the “SAS Survival Guide” app with HarperCollins several years ago. It has since sold over 200,000 copies and garnered over $1 million in revenue. Investment on the app was recovered in a matter of weeks, Papertrell founder Arun Benty told Digital Book World. The app is currently for sale to consumers for $4.99.
Papertrell also developed an app called “Everyday Raw Detox” for publisher Gibbs Smith, which sells at $2.99. It took a month for the publisher to break even on its investment, said Benty.
In addition to tackling the cost problem, Benty claims that Papertrell is expert in marketing and selling apps. Its platform includes a system for updating metadata for apps across platforms, tracking analytics and managing negative app reviews, which can be a killer for any app.
The platform also automatically generates a website for each app at which publishers can direct their marketing and tracking efforts.
“We know how to sell apps,” said Benty.
While being able to cheaply produce an app doesn’t solve the problem of lack of consumer demand for publishers, it makes the cost structure more palatable. Some publishing observers believe that this is the year that consumer demand for illustrated digital content takes off.