Whither the book app?
March 7, 2014 | 2:31 pm
By Joanna Cabot
Juli sent this blog post my way, by indie writer L.R. Styles. In the post, Styles laments the cost and difficulty of producing book apps—not non-fiction interactive apps, but ones based on novels, with soundtracks and old-timey fonts and so on. From the post:
“As an indie author, I love the idea of making each book title into an app. Such individualization—to me–really helps focus on the feel and tone I envisioned for each book when writing it. Just being able to include a soundtrack, font and old-school decorative printing flourishes makes my mind whirl with ideas, and such is the case for many of my fellow authors.”
As the reader, not the writer, in this little equation, I would like to take this opportunity to plead with Styles to put the brakes on this train of thought right here, right now, before we go any further. Please don’t make apps based on indie novels. Please don’t. PLEASE don’t.
Here is why: to you, your novel is a unique, precious, individual snowflake. I get it, I do. I see why, on an abstract level, making it as pretty as your heart imagines it must be an appealing option. But for me, the reader…well, I read a hundred books a year, on a good year. I simply don’t have the disk space on my reader to store a hundred unique, special, disk-hogging apps. I need to keep them limited to ePub files, of a reasonable size, safely corralled within iBooks, and not cluttering up every home screen.
An enhanced book within such an ecosystem is a sometimes-possibility. I recently bought a picture book my boss to use in a lesson with some kids, and it used an enhanced format which was used to preserve the layout of the text and pictures. That was useful and necessary for this type of book, and I could read it within the regular Kindle app, so I didn’t mind.
I have also seen a few types of books which really benefit from interactivity. For instance, I am thinking of buying the BOB Books app for use on the school iPads. This is a series of phonics readers which we already have in paper, and the interactive features are useful for helping emerging readers learn how to sound out words. But even in this situation, the app can store more than one book! Sure, it can only load THEIR books. But it can at least load more than one of them.
With all due respect to L.R. Styles, who I have never heard of until today, I’d like to humbly suggest that if you want to progress beyond the struggling indie stage, you think more about what the readers want, less about what you personally want. I will never, ever buy an app that only reads one book, and I would really NOT like to see that become a trend. Ugh. I can’t imagine a worse form of iPad pollution than a thousand apps for a thousand self-published genre titles.
Editor’s Note: Juli completely agrees with Joanna on the “thousand apps” point. I like to keep my devices clean, and I prefer my books in a small number of apps. That said, I do think there is a place for interactivity in ebooks, but I’d also rather they stayed within the confines of an ereading app (or apps).