By Joseph T. Sinclair
Apps (applications) are programs that run on a smart phone. They are typically dedicated to a specific and narrow purpose. For instance, an app might do nothing more than condense 10 steps on the Web into one tap on the phone screen to accomplish the identical purpose. Put several of such functions together, and you’ve made a valuable app. Something so simple becomes valuable to a phone user who is usually doing something other than sitting at a keyboard.
Publishing should take its cue from programming. Dedicate and specialize. Traditional publishers are more likely to publish a book on making household repairs than on a more specialized topic. As a book app author or publisher, however, you can make a book app on just repairing a washing machine.
Rather than publishing a book on Getting a Job for Teenagers, how about a book app on Getting a Job at McDonald’s, or Getting a Job at McDonald’s in Philadelphia (pop. 5.8 million).
The traditional publishers continue their paper publishing in digital form, embracing the ebook. They need to charge enough for an ebook to cover their expenses/profit minus what they save in printing and distributing a physical printed book. This adds up to about a 20% saving at retail on the average book.
A paper book that sells for $24 can be sold for $19 as an ebook, less whatever discount the retailer gives. If the retailer also gives a 20% discount at retail, the ebook can sell for $15. But who will pay $15 for an ebook that covers 27 topics when he or she only wants to read one or two of those topics?
The term “book app” denotes a publication in a book-like form. This could be a manual, a booklet, a white paper, or a short book. Length is no longer a major consideration for publishing information. Value to the reader, short or long, becomes the prime consideration.
A $3 book app on repairing a washing machine is valuable to a person with a broken washing machine. How does this compare to a $20 lengthy ebook on household repairs that may or may not contain adequate information on repairing a broken washing machine?
For publishing book apps, generally speaking, smaller can be better, less can be more. That doesn’t mean that long books have no market. It just means that the opportunities to publish short book apps successfully are there to be exploited.
One cannot overlook the phenomenon that ebooks generally cost $10 or more, and book apps generally cost less than $10. The pricing makes book apps attractive to readers. Because the book apps will tend to be shorter, the pricing can be adequate for publishers as well. Indeed, you can split a normal book into several parts and sell each part as a book app. I recently split an unpublished book into five parts, which I will eventually publish as a branded series of five separate book apps with minimal additional writing.
The real appeal to publishers, however, is the immense size of the potential market for book apps—perhaps as much as thirty times larger (in bodies) worldwide than the traditional book market. The question is, how many of those people are readers or will become readers? The market will answer that question in the days and years ahead.
©Joseph T. Sinclair 2013 All rights reserved.