Books as apps deserve serious consideration

They may be more important than you think

While following FutureBook 12 recently (#fbook12) a topic came to mind that I feel needs to gain additional traction: Books as apps play an important role vs. existing ebook platforms.

This is a frightening future for many in publishing (and for many authors) but it’s true.

Books as apps enable authors to control the key components necessary to ensure their works are freely available and readily shareable. When an author is the provider of the book in app form, they decide what can be done in and with the book. Can comments be made? Can paragraphs be copied and shared? Can margin notes be shared / publicly visible in a way that authors want them to be (e.g. to all readers of the book) vs. in a controlled environment where the retailer determines the way a reader can engage.

Books as apps deliver:

  • A direct connection to the reader vs. the retailer
  • Reinforcement of the author’s brand on the homescreen vs. the retailer’s brand.
  • The ability to sell directly to readers to increase margins
  • The ability to interact directly with readers within the work
  • The ability to manage use of their works with respect to sharing, quoting, etc.

These opportunities (and many more) don’t / won’t / can’t exist in the current ebook platforms. That’s because they simply don’t operate to the benefit of the platform.

Books as apps don’t have anything to do with technology. Books as apps have everything to do with:

  • who has control of the content
  • who has control of the content ecosystem
  • who owns the financial relationship with the reader
  • who owns the personal relationship with the reader

The idea behind the Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, Kobo, etc. platforms is lock-in. These platforms are hardware and software uniquely designed to keep the works, commerce and conversations all within their environment, all within their control. While the platforms do provide a few glimpses of “control” to the author and reader, these vanish when thoroughly inspected.

Everyone inherently knows this. It’s discussed frequently. Yet, it’s still staggering when you read it. The existing ebook platforms are about benefit to the platform provider. They are only secondarily (at best) about benefit to the author and to the reader.

In this model, works become marketing vehicles for customer acquisition for the ebook platform. They are not about acquisition to the author’s platform. This model doesn’t fundamentally support the author’s long-term prospects.

The real question is, when will authors begin to take steps to gain full control of their digital future?

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