Apps: The Future of Book Publishing
With the availability of new technologies and the Internet, the book industry has expanded its markets; changing the traditional functions of how consumers purchase and read books. In a sense, readers are given more options, more variety, and more choices. For instance, consumers today have the opportunity to pick whether they want to purchase a physical book at a bookstore, at an electronic version of the book online, or through an app-store. Moreover, the literature may be read through various means: traditionally (physical book); on a mobile device (cell phones, tablets, e-readers, etc.); or on a desktop computer. It should not be surprising then, that to a large extent, the Internet and the use of applications are the future of book publishing; however, rather than abolishing the whole notion of traditional form of books, we see a growth in the medium through technological advancement, socialization, and efficiency. On the other hand, there are some individuals that disagree with the conception of apps as a function of book publishing.
Various hi-tech innovations have altered the way in which readers read while maintaining the ideology of reading a traditional book. Likewise, certain apps have adapted such principles. For instance, the development of Apple’s iBook reader app gives readers a sense of ‘reading’. In other words, the user-interface, or the navigation of the app allows readers to demonstrate similar motions and functions as reading a physical book (Barnet, 2010). Most e-readers on the other hand, do not provide such an innovation; instead, readers are required to turn a page by pressing a button (Barnet, 2010). Alternatively, there are some apps that go beyond the basic functions of traditional books. For example, Papercut for iPad integrates elements of audio, video, images, and animations to emphasize and balance the text of the literature (Bryant, 2011). Rather than fill the screen with text, the app provides animation and graphical elements in the background as the reader goes through the literature (Bryant, 2011). Essentially, readers are given the opportunity to read the literature in new ways as opposed to reading on black and white text. Similarly, Kindle’s application for the iPhone and iPad incorporates audio and video playback, customizable themes and texts for Kindle books (McCarty, 2010). It may be evident that the future of e-reader apps is heading towards a greater multi-media format, allowing readers to presumably enjoy the most out of their purchased literature. However, it is still uncertain whether readers will be willing to purchase or download an application that changes the way they read on a screen. It may be ‘cool’ to engage in different ways of reading, but will it sustain? Or will we continue to prefer the traditional way of reading on a screen?
It is quite evident that parents tend to hand their mobile devices to their children whether it is for gaming purposes or for reading purposes. Moreover, kids are owners of mobile devices (Sandberg, Maris & de Geus, 2011). In a sense, children today are being socialized into the technological culture at early stages. How they read in the future highly depends on the way they read literature now. Regardless, one can argue that kids may not be able to differentiate the differences between reading through an app and reading a physical book; therefore, children are not entirely fixated to the technological socialization. To a certain extent, that argument may be true; however, with the development of interactive reading apps that incorporate animation, audio, and pictures, children are able to engage in the literature the same way they play games on the iPhone, iPad, or any smart phone (Sandberg, Maris & de Geus, 2011). Children are immersed with mobile devices due to its larger selection of story books and the ‘fun’ that comes with it (Hauman, 2010). Similarly, research has demonstrated that children learn relatively faster and better with a mobile device that incorporates animation-like elements – due to the fact that they spend enormous amounts of time on a device (Sandberg, Maris & de Geus, 2011). Ultimately, if children adapt the technological methods of reading on a screen at early stages and continue to do so without given the opportunity to read literature from a physical book, they may perceive the traditional form of books to be boring and less engaging.
On the other hand, in relation to the advanced functions of e-reader apps, consumers are able to access applications or apps relatively easily and quickly. With a simple touch on their mobile devices, consumers are able to download e-reader apps for free or for a reasonably inexpensive price (CBSNews, 2011). Moreover, readers now are able to store large amounts of literature on their mobile devices without worrying about space limitation (CBSNews, 2011). With such advancement in storage space, consumers are lead to believe that they can purchase more books (CBSNews, 2011). Also, in the technological culture we live in today, readers are finally able to view the literature through multiple devices as opposed to using one designated device (Barna, 2011). Users of e-reader apps are able to enjoy the media at anytime, and at any place (Barna, 2011). For instance, with cloud computing (virtual servers), readers can actively use different devices to continue where they had left off (Barna, 2011). However, due to the competitive nature of the e-book industry, the drawback to e-reader apps is that they require the reader to read through a designated application. In other words, if the secondary device does not support, say, Kindle’s app, then the user cannot access the literature. Then again, Google has demonstrated that their customers are able to access e-books on any device by introducing a web based application (Paul, 2009). As long as customers have a web browser function on their device, they are able to purchase and access the book through the internet – online or offline (Paul, 2009).
Alternatively, e-book businesses are attempting to advance further into the digital market. For example, in the United States, Amazon is taking a huge step, introducing a new concept that allows Kindle users (owners of Kindle devices or Kindle’s app) to borrow e-books from libraries – all you need is a library card and an Amazon account (Valerio, 2011). According to Amazon`s press release, “customers will be able to check out a Kindle book from their local library and start reading on any Kindle device or free Kindle app for Android, iPad, iPod touch, iPhone, PC, Mac, BlackBerry, or Windows Phone” (Valerio, 2011, para. 2). By borrowing e-books, Amazon is able to maintain its record of customer’s preference, and, from time to time, introduce them to similar titles (Valerio, 2011). It must be noted however, that Amazon is not paying for the e-book’s entrance into the library; instead, the library will be in charge of the payments (Valerio, 2011). In order for Amazon to please publishers, e-books will not be stored indefinitely in the library’s data base (Valerio, 2011). Once the e-book has reached a certain number of loans, the library must repurchase the literature before their customers are able to borrow the book any further (Valerio, 2011). However, taking in to account Amazon’s marketing strategy, Amazon will most likely offer discounts to readers after they have borrowed an e-book, and in turn increase their markets while possibly depriving publishers.
By increasing the use of e-reader apps, the amount of digital books that enter the industry may or may not satisfy publishers. Whether or not publishers support the agency model depends on the e-book industry and its impact on readers (Auletta, 2010). The agency model is a system whereby the publisher would act as the seller, and Amazon or any e-book store as the agent (Auletta, 2010). For instance, when publishers sell digital books to Apple’s iBook, they are storing the sold literature into iBook’s digital warehouse. As a result, publishers will no longer have to worry about returns, warehouse fees, printing expenses, shipping costs, and paper costs (Auletta, 2010). In other words, publishers will be able to efficiently cut costs due to the overwhelmingly large industry of distribution channels (Barna, 2011). Similarly, with Amazon’s move to the library, the agency model may be viewed as sufficiently appealing whereby publishers may perceive Amazon’s movement to be an opportunity to increase sales. When readers borrow an e-book, they may also want to purchase the digital book from Amazon or another e-book store, or better yet, a physical book (Valerio, 2011). Nonetheless, such perceptions depend on Amazon’s marketing strategy.
Although the agency model may seem attractive to some publishers, there are some that believe that the model is inappropriate. Some publishers are concerned that by selling e-books at lower prices, the amount of profit they earn will be relatively low (Auletta, 2010). For instance, Amazon had been buying e-books from publishers for approximately thirteen dollars while selling the e-books for $9.99 (Auletta, 2010). As a result, Amazon does not take a positive gain for every book they sell, but instead, they gain a larger market share whereby they encourage the sales of Kindle (Auletta, 2010). To further complicate matters, Amazon had marketed the price of an e-book quite effectively. They implanted the notion that $9.99 is a good deal and anything above that price is too expensive (Auletta, 2010). In other words, publishers are ‘forced’ to lower their costs, and sell their books for about ten dollars (Auletta, 2010). Therefore publishers in the digital book industry are not earning much realistically even if they sell their books to Amazon’s Kindle. The royalties that publishers earn decreases as Amazon sells each digital book for about ten dollars. With Amazon creating such a monopoly, publishers may not want to enter the e-book market. As a result, the amount of e-books that are purchasable through an app will also decrease. However, there are some publishers that think differently. For example, Tim O’Reilly sells e-books to Apple’s iPhone for $4.95 (Auletta, 2010). O’Reilly had discovered that by selling e-books for lower price, there would be a larger volume or demand for the book (Auletta, 2010). Quite simply then, consumers are fixated on the mindset that e-books are not worth purchasing if they are retailed at a price above ten dollars, and anything below ten dollars is worth reading because it is cheap.
Like the digital magazine industry, Google introduced a new method for customers to read: through the internet and on their internet browser – also known as web applications. The web app is accessible on Google Chrome, allowing customers to purchase and read their chosen literature on any computer or mobile device that has access to the Internet (Paul, 2009). Publishers may view the web app as a golden opportunity, or simply just a bad idea. By allowing customers to purchase e-books on the internet and reading it on the computer or on their compact devices, sure they can access the literature anywhere, but that begs the question: will people really enjoy reading e-books on a web browser when there are apps already produced that provides efficient and convenient reading? Unlike e-magazines where they incorporate a more interactive approach, the web application does not provide e-books with such functions. Generally speaking, Google has become another competitor in the e-book industry, and that publishers are given more distribution options. Alternatively, to differentiate Google from other e-bookstores, customers are able to purchase digital books straight from the websites of retailers as opposed Google’s general store (Raphael, 2010). As a result, retailers and publishers earn majority of the profit. Even so, as a secondary measure, and to please readers that prefer reading through an app, Google has also developed an application that is downloadable for any mobile device (Paul, 2009). Essentially, the idea of web based applications is still new to many readers, and is yet to become popular among readers of e-books.
Although the book industry has expanded its markets through the realm of technology and the Internet, the use of web based reading applications is still uncertain due to the fact that there are many other competitive mobile device apps that produce the same or similar functions. However, due to the development of such apps, consumers are given more purchasing options, and publishers are given more distribution choices. Moreover, apps are developed to satisfy readers by allowing them to maintain the mentality of reading a physical book. Similarly, new apps are continuously being developed to entertain and engage readers by incorporating video, audio, animation, and images. Children, in a sense, enjoy the advancement of such apps due to its ability to actively engage and interact with the child. Conversely, if parents continuously provide their children with interactive devices, kids may perceive books to be less engaging and, ultimately boring due to the static nature of text. In a sense, how we read highly depends on how we read during our early stages and our dependence on the technology. For instance, cell phones have become such a big influence in our daily lives – we use the device to socialize, browse the web, play games, listen to music, and read. We read through an iPhone, Blackberry, or any smart phone because of it is innovative functions, convenience, efficiency, and its accessibility. Therefore, to a great degree, apps are the future of book publishing.
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