Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sideways releases second 'Buddy Edition' app; tablet editions of books lag behind other publishing products

The folks over at Sideways have released their second "Buddy Edition" book app for the iPad. This one is called Jeremy Fisher: Buddy Edition in the iTunes App Store, though the full name of the Beatrix Potter classic is The Tale of Jeremy Fisher.
Sideways, the Cleveland, Ohio based publishing software and app development company, previously released another Beatrix Potter book that is in the public domain to showcase their Buddy Reading technology which integrates Apple's Game Center into the app. (You can find the Peter Rabbit: Buddy Edition in iTunes here, and my own post on the app here.)

The Buddy Reading technology allows out-of-town parents to read a bedtime story to their child in real-time by using the app on two iOS devices. Because of this, the apps are universal so that the buyer will have access to the app on their iPad, iPhone or iPod touch.

“Nothing can take the place of a parent reading a bedtime story to a child. Now with the Buddy Reading technology, parents can keep that precious connection to their children at home, no matter the distance. The success of Peter Rabbit shows families welcome this chance to read together,” Charles Stack, CEO and co-founder of Sideways in the company's press release.

“New multi-media devices offer great ways of telling classic stories. We’ve taken the century-old delight of The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher and respectfully extended it using new technology, which can be efficiently applied to books new and old,” Stack said.

While Sideways continues to release apps showcasing their own digital publishing solutions, the whole tablet book publishing business appears confused and directionless. Does an iPad owner buy books through iBooks, the Kindle app, Google Books, one of the two Barnes & Noble NOOK apps, or maybe the Kobo free books app?

But then there is the option to buy book apps through both the iTunes App Store and the Android Market. The book apps hold the promise of interactivity and multimedia. Surely this looks like a great new market as there are over 15,000 book apps currently available in Apple App Store, of which more than 13,000 of them are paid.

But a look at the best seller list, so to speak, shows that the top sellers are almost all children't books. Those that are targeted to "adults" -- and I put that in quote because we really mean anyone over 12 -- are often by independent developers.

One book on the list is Dark Prophesy is from Level 26 which released the book under the name Dare to Pass Inc., with a seller name of Crickets & Credits LLC -- for reasons that are mysterious. Here is a video promoting the book:

The book app, which goes for $12.99 in the App Store, has gotten raves from iTunes reviewers. But unless a book gets the attention of Apple, or else gets a bit of word of mouth, it is hard to get noticed in the mass of products in iTunes.

This may explain why many major book publishers continue to shy away from launching apps. Penguin Group, for instance, that made such a splash back in March of last year only has a couple of apps currently available.

"We will be embedding and streaming audio, video and gaming in to everything we do. This will present us, and the platform owners with technology challenges," Penguin Group’s CEO John Makinson said at the time.

Maybe I need to be more patient, after all, the book publishing business has a different heartbeat than does newspaper or magazine publishing. Things take time.

Just about a week ago Dorling Kindersley, a division of the Penguin Group (which itself is part of Pearson) announced that it had named a new digital agency, AKQA. The new agency will be tasked to create iOS apps for some of the publisher's best-selling titles. The current five iPad apps inside the App Store were created by the publisher's previous digital agency Cogapp.