Dispatches from the Digital Revolution
In yesterday’s post, I promised to show the light at the end of the tunnel for publishers trying to keep up with digital disruptions to their businesses. Topping the list of pain points at Gilbane was responsive design, publishing to varying mobile channels, devices and interfaces, and real-time delivery of rich media.
Some exciting solutions highlighted at the event came from smaller, more daring players in the digital publishing space who are experimenting with hybrid apps, author collaboration tools, and distribution services.
Pugpig, an HTML5 reader for iOS and Android, is a hybrid publishing platform that powers the app for the glossy UK women’s fashion magazine Grazia. Last Tuesday, the magazine launched its first weekly iPad edition available on Newsstand. Grazia combats the “walled gardens” of native apps that don’t provide the “linkyness” readers come to expect from the web. In addition to editorial content, viewers are able to link through to purchase everything from theater and concert tickets to books and technology products.
Jonny Kaldor, creator of Pugpig, explained in the “Mobile Publishing Decisions” session that through the hybridity of the app, they are able to cut load time by using snapshots of images, but can also add reflowable content that renders not only on the device but on a web browser. By using the container model, scrolling becomes less jittery and slow through use of templates in HTML5. The decision for the app did not come without pushback. “Our editorial team was originally against it. We faced resistance from putting content into templates,” Kaldor said.
This resistance to apps is not new. Publications like Technology Review learned the hard way that simply creating a digital replica and charging for a native app in single editions was not a viable solution.
Absurdly, many publishers ended up producing six different versions of an editorial product: a print publication, a conventional digital replica for Web browsers and proprietary software, a digital replica for landscape viewing on tablets, something that was not quite a digital replica for portrait viewing on tablets, a kind of hack for smart phones, and ordinary HTML pages for their websites.
Pugpig and Grazia enjoy the advantages of a hybrid app (see bottom section for detailed differences between app types), but in the end, if you don’t have an iPad, and you want that app…sorry. You’re out of luck.
Author Collaboration Tools
Rough Cuts, offered by Safari Books Online, is a service that allows the reader access to the evolution of a manuscript. Readers can then read the book as it’s being written with the opportunity to interact with the author to influence the final publication. Readers see the development of the book firsthand, and they can send suggestions, bug fixes, and comments directly to the author and editors.
Press Books works on a WordPress platform and creates ebooks for any device, web books for accessibility and promotion, and PDFs for print books and print-on-demand. Think multiple authors all collaborating on a book at once in a dashboard, using built-in templates with the ability to export into multiple formats (ePUB, or ePUB to Kindle, or PDFs to print-on-demand.) Then there is an option for authors to distribute their work to ebook retailers (Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble) through Press Books. If this works as well as it proclaims, and takes off with authors unafraid of trying something new, whoa.
Apps, apps everywhere! What’s the difference? Below is background information gleaned from Icenium’s Doug Seven.