Five Myths About Book Apps

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

I recently surveyed my colleagues at the Book App Alliance to find out what myths they hear most often about book apps. Here’s a look at five of the most common.

Related: Register for Karen Robertson’s DBW U course on how to create a book app


1. You can tell the difference between a book app and an ebook

Sometimes you can and sometimes you can’t! I often say “a book app is an ebook on steroids” because, from a functionality perspective, you can do so much more with a book app. Ebooks are for reading and book apps are for engaging and interacting.

The truth of the matter is that even a simple digital book (with basic enhancements like a few sound effects or animation for example) can qualify as a book app. What separates an ebook from a book app is how it’s developed and where it’s sold.

The magic of book apps is that writers can create a multi-sensory reading experience that brings the reader into the narrative or text. But it’s not all about bells and whistles. A great book app starts with quality writing, so editing is essential.

Have a look at “Love, the App” as an example. It recently won the BolognaRagazzi Digital Award.

Here’s an infographic from book app author, Chris Pedersen, showing the difference between an ebook and a book app:



2. Book apps are just for picture books

There’s no question that the Top 200 Books category on the Apple App Store is dominated by children’s books, and many are digital versions of picture books.

But not all book apps are picture books.

In this video, you’ll see a range of genres published as book apps; picture books, poetry, nonlinear stories, comics and more.

To discover some of the best book apps for children, check out the children’s book app review site, Digital Storytime.

There is also an incredible range of enhanced ebooks and book apps for adults; how-to books, business books, magazines, etc. Have a look at Inkling’s book store for inspiration.


3. You have to be tech savvy to create a book app

You don’t! I’m not a gadget girl and I’ve published three book apps. And by sharing the process and resources, I’ve helped dozens of other people publish their books as apps. When you know the steps and resources, it’s just a matter of doing what needs to be done.

And don’t be intimidated by technology. There are book app specialist development companies and do-it-yourself tools (that don’t require programming skills) that you can work with.

Whats a Book App - 27 Writers Cover with TBB logo FinalI wrote What is a Book App and Could YOU Create One? as an introduction to what book apps are and the step-by-step process you can use to create one. This book takes you through the decisions you need to make and includes the personal stories of dozens of people who have published their books as apps (including Pablo Curti from the “Love, the App” team). When you read these personal stories, you’ll see how varied these projects can be. What is a Book App and Could YOU Create One? is free on Kindle March 15-19.

If you’re a publisher managing a big project or multiple projects, you might find this webcast from Inkling, “Best Practices for Producing Digital Content,” useful.


4. You’re going to get rich

There’s no question that there’s the potential to make good money with apps. There are hundreds of millions of smartphones and tablets in the market, and if you gain even a fraction of 1% of that, you’d be rich.

But built isn’t bought! The work really begins once your app is in the app stores, because apps don’t sell themselves. Just as with any type of publishing, marketing is essential. Getting a good review is great for credibility, but doesn’t lift sales very much. Getting featured in an app store is much more helpful, but is completely outside of your control.

So you need to know that marketing will be critical and that, as with any type of book marketing, your marketing isn’t about your book app, it’s about what your book app can do for your reader.

On a side note, I’m often asked if authors make more money with ebooks or book apps. My colleagues who have their books in both formats tell me that they sell far more book apps than ebooks, and they sell far more apps on Apple’s App Store than they do on Android app stores.

Jon Feldman of Open Air (they specialize in nonfiction, interactive books) says they sell “10-30 times more apps than ebooks on Amazon or Apple’s iBookstore.”

Just as very few printed books become genuine best sellers, very few book apps become best sellers.


5. Built once is built forever

One of the things I love about book apps is that once your app is approved, you have guaranteed, global distribution.

But I learned the hard way that “built once isn’t built forever.” This was the issue that inspired me to start writing and speaking to other writers about creating book apps.

New software releases and devices can occasionally affect how well your app works. So when you’re discussing your project with developers, it’s essential that you discuss how your app will be supported over time, to deal with new devices and software releases.

Related: Register for Karen Robertson’s DBW U course on how to create a book app


Have a book app myth you want to discuss? Add to the comments below.

3 thoughts on “Five Myths About Book Apps

  1. Ori Idan

    The main problems with book as an app as we see them are:
    1. We need to create separate book for each platform
    2. If the OS on say iPad is upgraded, it may break the app.
    3. We already have too many apps on our tablet so it would be hard to find the book app.

    However apps still has the advantages, that they can be more interactive even with the latest generation of EPUB3 books.

    So there are many considerations to take before publishing an eBook as an app.

  2. mairalie

    Hi, Karen. I could not find either your course nor your book. I am really interested in them. Could you help me? How could I contact you?



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