Let’s get on with it

The third section of Book: A Futurist's Manifesto includes a chapter, "On the Therapist’s Couch: Books as Apps, Really?", written by Neal Hoskins of WingedChariot. In it, Hoskins describes his experience building apps for the book business.

It has not been an easy path to navigate for Hoskins and other app developers. A chapter by Peter Collingridge that appears in the same section chronicles how Enhanced Editions, which achieved significant critical acclaim with its app for The Death of Bunny Munrostruggled commercially, ultimately retooling its business model.

For his part, Hoskins takes a longer view, noting both what has changed and what has not:

"While there are different things in the mix today, the early icon screens are not that far away from what we have now. In one of the best roundups of what went on before in ebook publishing, Ars Technica provided a look at all the failed machines. Sobering, yes, but these were the real brave hearts. The era of PDAs sowed the seeds of the modern smartphones and ultimately ebooks, apps, and the like."

While acknowledging app skeptics, Hoskins still sees a blended model going forward. Quoting a contribution that Uwe Matrish made to a LinkedIn discussion group:

"Creating App or EPUB will be a question of delivery. If I want to sell my content in a bookstore like iBooks I create an EPUB. If I want it in a “department store” like the App Store I create an App. Since more and more Apps are made via frameworks which also work with HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript (“web app” is a keyword), App and ePub are only different containers of the same content, book or however you want to label them."

Still, my favorite part of Hoskin's work is embedded in a tweet by Hugh McGuire, the book's co-editor. As Hugh wryly observed, "The future of books in the digital age is apparently writing books on the future of books in the digital age." Hoskin's response to the hand-wringing is simple: let's get on with it, figuring things out as we go.

About Manifesto: You can now read Hoskins' chapter online, where it is hosted on the PressBooks site. The complete book can also be purchased in print, digital and bundled formats through O'Reilly Media and in print and digital formats at major book retailing sites. I've noted earlier that the royalties for the book are being used to fund the development of PressBooks, and for that reason I encourage you to consider buying the book.

An additional note: While the introduction of iBooks Author means that Apple has been less kind to EPUB of late, the core of Matrish's comment remains true: pick the format that does the best job in the chosen channel.

Brian O'Leary

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.