Last week, I found myself wondering what my sizable network of fellow writers had digitally accomplished this year, especially if any had actually taken the ‘app’ bait (whether iPad/iPhone or Android) or, if had they gone the way of the “enhanced” eBook… specifically if they’ve utilized HTML5 and EPUB3. The responses to my queries were overwhelming in number and–as always—quite varied, but most indicated that they are either in the process, or at least have plans for one (or both) in the near future. The replies also indicated that most authors do not recognize any ‘fadish’ properties existing in or around the ever-evolving genre of the eBook.

Author Frank Fiore: “My publisher Trapdoor Books through their technology arm called Trapdoor Technologies converted my book –CYBERKILL – into their enhanced ebook technology – an app that runs on the Android and Apple iOS platforms. In my opinion, I thinks apps are the way to go since that’s where many of the platforms for publishing are headed. Even Amazon took a bit of the concept by jumping in with the Kindle Fire instead of just staying with the kindle. With an app, you can upgrade your book with new enhanced features – even additional content that you might have left out before – anytime you want. Also, since CYBERKILL is an app, we give the enhanced ebook away for free – it’s advertising supported like all free apps. I make money whether the book is purchased or not cause I get a share of the ad revenue.”

Author Caroline Gerado‘s response managed to cover both reading and writing aspects of my query:

“I am working with a development team integrating video/ photo/reading/ and reader ability to direct the narrative with a live website. The team has a myself, a comedian, two musicians, some indie filmmakers, teen game developers, engineers in Mountain View & India. “Playing” with new formats. I learned as much HTML5 as is written this year (I do not have a computer degree but a nimble with software building from old career) Many new formats coming. Each platform desires to be unique to keep their brand from being eaten and pirated. Many exciting things ahead. Only wish I had longer days and started younger. There will be inexpensive choices in 14 months. What is on the market only links and flows back slowly to the book. I want a book that a teen can chat with me or my team, can read then plug into a portal in their car to listen to the next chapter, lazily watch on TV some video clips, chat with others re: should the protagonist go left or right, read skype reviews, integrate with the kiosk at Barnes and Noble’s center as live reading, and smell good… (well not smell but more ) NO ONE has a swanky version yet, most are clunky and slow. Soon.”

The majority of writers, regardless of what industry they’ve worked in, age or education level, showed a ready familiarity with the idea of turning eBooks into apps as well as a willingness to “give it a go” in the near future; almost none had heard of –or had plans to try out–“enhanced” eBooks.

“Ebooks2go is in the process of making my new book, “Write the Right Word” into an App,” wrote author Sondra Smith. “And do not know][yet] if I will be happy with it or not. They are to have it finished soon. Being I have so many tabs, which can cause major problems with the ebook upload, I would say it is quite a job to get it done properly. I knew I could not do it myself… so decided to have the pro’s do it for me. I don’t even know what the html5 and epubs3 Enhanced eBooks are all about, but will let you know how the app for the i-devices does turn out once it is done.”

A few authors’ replies indicated that several menacing issues still inhibit real, perpetual growth in the eBook industry. Indeed some of these issues seemed to be so fear-inducing that some writers lumped them all together:

“At this time I am considering neither for our books,” wrote author/publisher Val Edward Simone. “I’m not convinced of the technology for one and I’m not convinced of the security of the products yet. There are too many people out there with far too much time on their hands. I’m very concerned about piracy issues. When I’m sure the technology is safe to use, I might consider it. I don’t immediately jump onto something new just because it is new. I like to see a track record before considering integrating it into my life and business. I just now finally got a Kindle.”

Glenda Bixler–a professional book reviewer and computer systems analyst–wrote the longest reply, but all of it seemed to apply, illustrating at least two facets of the eBook consumer:

“For larger systems I quickly learned that some form of standardization would need to be set before consumers really would have the ability to make wise choices. I don’t know whether that is possible given the speed of new options coming out. Now, for my personal opinion…from a reviewer’s point of view, this has already become extremely difficult as I am being sent different formatted files, that are merely be touted as eBooks. I just got one with a file ending I’ve never seen before and have no idea whether I’ll be able to figure out how to read it! I already use both computer and Kindle to read the various files I’m being sent. Now I’m getting multiple file copies of the same book (for instance, one mobi file and one epub…the latter I couldn’t get opened, the mobi I loaded on Kindle…but no matter what…it was both time consuming as well as irritating to have multiple copies on my computer, having to keep both until, at least, my review was done, but then having to delete the extra files from the various hardware.

Personally, I find that–for doing reviews–any electronic copy is more difficult and time-consuming to use. With a hard copy you can highlight, mark or just turn a page down that you want to later refer to for the review. With an electronic device, you must first learn to use the hardware to effectively do this or you must use a search activity, trying to find the particular location of that favorite paragraph that you wanted to quote, etc. Or you must jot down info on a separate computer file or handwritten notes (NOT moving forward in my opinion!) And you guessed it, not only haven’t I had the time to learn that early version of Kindle, if I am to keep up with the reading stack, there is no way that I could afford the time to move on to some other option, even if it is the most wonderful thing ever! LOL –

What I fear for authors is that, because of the “glitz” these fantastic options will be more and more selected, only to find that we book bloggers will not have the capability to read and review their novels…unless, of course, we can get them in hard copy…Yikes!

Some of the writers–as well as some of the publishers–however are still in the Valley of Decision about branching out into either apps or enhanced eBooks… and they show no sign of leaving it any time soon, instead opting for the seemingly secure position of wait-and-see.

“For me the crucial thing is the market,” wrote Katy Loffman ofDandelion Digital. “There’s no point in producing a product that can’t be viewed on any devices or sold in any existing outlets. The market for apps is thriving in apple and android, so publishers are confident publishing for it. However, until there is an obvious place to sell ePub3s and HTML5s, with a clientele happy to pay real money, publishers will find it hard to justify the huge expense of publishing in that format. There may also be a problem of skills too because publishers have Not mastered multimedia authoring or production yet. I think it will be a while before the HTML5 or ePub3 Market is mature enough for publishers to abandon apps in favor of them.”

It was heartening to see so many writers willing to expand their eBook platform beyond the ‘safe’ havens of PDF and Kindle, showing that they were at least paying attention to the market for the last two years. For the younger generations (almost beings born with smartphones in hand) in order to fit in with the trendy devices being purchased, eBooks apparently must transcend static text on digital paper in future. However, until a one-size-fits-all format can be decided on and implemented the industry is kind of hovering around the door, waiting to be invited in to the Hall of Progress. Now that ebook sales/ebook app use has doubled forsome, tripled for others and are up on many a company cavorting across the sprawling fields of the Web, the creation of a single format may not be as far-fetched an idea as once thought. The money is certainly there to make it happen.

[Via Greene Ink]


  1. ePub3 and HTML5 are standards: easy for software to display. Apps are not standard. They are routinely broken by system updates, so require continual upgrading (and customer support) to continue working. An ePub or HTML ebook will continue functioning when the standard or system is updated.

    Apps are terrific for transient content (games, schedules, events, trips, tourism etc.) because they can be updated when the content changes. However, they don’t carry over well into succeeding time segments. They age rapidly, becoming out-of date almost before you can notice.

    ePub3 and HTML5 can already update your ebook content whenever you want. Unless you’re going to be changing much of the content often, these standards are a much safer and longer-lasting format for your book.

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