Some Differences Between Ebooks, Enhanced Ebooks, And Apps

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

A digital storybook in app format by Sourcebooks.

A digital storybook in app format by Sourcebooks.

Digital storybooks for children come in many flavors: ebooks, enhanced ebooks and apps. What’s the difference between the three? They each offer different capabilities, require different production tools, have different price points, and serve different consumer needs.

Capabilities and production process of ebooks, enhanced ebooks and apps

Ebooks are simplest to produce, but their capabilities are the most limited. While ebooks can be created by someone without an education in software production, apps require an experienced computer programmer. Enhanced ebooks are not as complicated to produce as apps, but some training is necessary. Enhanced ebooks and apps also require additional media, such as artwork or audio or animation, which must be produced by trained specialists as well.

A storybook app by Oceanhouse Media

A storybook app by Oceanhouse Media

Though ebooks are easier to make, apps and enhanced ebooks have a broader range of capabilities, including interactivity. Oceanhouse Media is a digital publisher committed to producing apps. CEO Michel Kripalani explains why they produce only apps. “From the very beginning,” Kripalani said, “we were drawn to apps because of their unlimited potential from a feature standpoint.” The team at Oceanhouse believes that more innovation is possible with apps. “The ability to provide a richer, more dynamic experience for the end user is why we choose to develop apps over ebooks in the first place,” he said, “and remains why we will continue to do so going forward.”

Sales expectations  of ebooks, enhanced ebooks and apps

Surprisingly, even though apps can do more, they tend to sell for less in the marketplace. That’s because historically, ebooks are converted books, and people expect to pay a certain price for a literary work. Apps come from an internet software heritage, and many people are used to downloading software for free.

App prices sometimes begin at “free.” The no-cost version frequently includes the whole story, but not all of the multimedia capabilities are turned on. To get all of the features requires a payment, but the price is often low, because customers expect that cost to be pretty close to “free.”

In the case of ebooks and enhanced ebooks, customers can often download a “preview” of the first few pages, but not the whole ebook. Customers think about the price of ebooks in comparison to the cost of a hardcover book. So their expectations are not climbing up from free, but coming down from $12 to $29. That’s why ebook sellers can generally charge more.

Customers and Devices for ebooks, enhanced ebooks and apps

“Each format lends itself to a different audience or type of book,” said Dominique Raccah, Publisher and CEO of Sourcebooks, a company that creates books in all formats. Their app, Put Me In The Story, allows for maximum interaction and personalization. “An enhanced ebook allows us to seamlessly add additional content, like audio and video, into the book experience,” said Raccah, “and ebooks are a good fit with much of our list, for readers who are consuming more and more of their book content on tablets, phones, and other mobile devices.”

Which type of digital book should you produce?

Whether to create your story as an app, an ebook or an enhanced ebook is a fundamental decision. You must consider a range of factors before making the production choice. Here’s a chart that compares the qualities of each.






CAPABILITIES Static words and images, creator has no control over size of text, little control over where images appear on page Offers slightly more features than a traditional ebook, including the option of adding narration. Basic animation, audio, video capabilities are available. Nearly endless: interactive scenes and diagrams, animation, record and share your own narration, vocabulary building, guided narration, instant glossary definitions, parental controls and much more.
HOW TO BUILD Just run your MS Word doc or PDF through an EPUB or Mobi converter. (Or use Apple iBook Author). Most anyone can teach themselves to do this. Requires someone who knows what they’re doing, but not as highly trained as an App coder.  (Or use Apple iBook Author). Requires someone who knows coding in either Objective-C for iOS apps or Java for Android apps. Not everyone can teach themselves to do this. You’ll probably have to hire a coder.
PRICING EXPECTATIONS Ebooks are usually higher priced than apps and enhanced ebooks. This is because of the history in the book industry and the price of paper books. Often priced slightly higher than apps, about the same as ebooks. Most book apps are in the $2.99-$4.99 range. Many book apps have a SAMPLE version with limited functionality that you can download for free to try it out.
SELLING LOCATION Apple iBookstore, Nook, Amazon, Kobo. Apple iBookstore, Amazon Kindle Store, Nook Store, Kobo Apple App Store, Google Play, Amazon Appstore for Android, Barnes and Noble Appstore, Windows 8 Store and others.
DEVICE MOST OFTEN USED TO VIEW THIS Regular Kindle, Nook and Kobo Reader. Also iPhone and iPad. Kindle Fire, iPad. iOS or Android smartphone or tablet.
WHERE IT LIVES ON CUSTOMER’S DEVICE Inside a “reader” app, such as the iBooks, Kindle, Nook, or Kobo reader. Inside a “reader” app, such as the iBooks, Kindle, Nook, or Kobo reader. A separate stand-alone icon.


14 thoughts on “Some Differences Between Ebooks, Enhanced Ebooks, And Apps

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  13. Astra

    If you have kids who are age 5 and over and are already reading, you might be interested in my upcoming interactive ebook about a singing cat detective and her band the Skat Kats who solve crimes against endangered species. This ebook includes great music and interactive elements that allow children to delve more deeply into the subject matter of the story (animals, places, musical instruments and music styles). Check out my campaign to crowdfund its production

  14. Karim

    Building on your point on how to build an enhanced ebook, you recommend that users use iBooks Author if they don’t have coding knowledge. While that’s perfectly true, there are still many limitations to using iBooks Author to export outside of Apple’s formats. Have you tried Kotobee Author? It has a lifetime-free license good for almost everything and exports to 10+ formats including book apps (without a word of coding needed on the author’s part).



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