Victoria Davis, founder/CEO of Space Dog Books, a new interactive publishing company that makes eBook apps for the iPad, caught up with eBookNewser to talk about what kinds of content works in an app, what kinds of content doesn’t work and what the best price is for an eBook app.
EBN: How do you approach creating books for the iPad?
VD: Space Dog Books aims to bring young audiences highly original creative content that will set the bar for current technology. We aim to develop a unique library for our young readers that includes wonderfully reimagined classics as well as highly original content by some of today’s leading visual and audio artists. We are working with artists whose work would likely not be showcased in the traditional publishing market for kid’s books but has an opportunity to really shine in the eBook format.
We feel strongly that we are defining what a book can be for a new generation, a task which we feel not only requires unsurpassed ingenuity, but also bears great responsibility. We are very excited to rise to that challenge. Space Dog Books is working with both original content and existing titles, but approach each very differently. We always design with story in mind and we always make sure interactivity is based on content and works within context. For a classic like Treasure Island, a long novel, we paid close attention to enhance an immersive reading experience and not take the readers out their own personal encounter with the story.
EBN: What kinds of features work well?
VD: This is really determined by the content and intended audience. There are some wonderful features for younger readers such as tapping a word and having it repeated to you, but that’s obviously not a feature for an independent reader. We consider the audience carefully, the reading level, need for interaction with a parent or other reader and the ability of the art and content to drive the precious quality of a good story.
You need to add features to enhance the specific level of reading, keep interface intuitive and easy, and add an element of fun or whimsy. In creating Treasure Island, our art director Tymn Armstrong came up with a model for maintaining the flow of the story while leveraging the technology to enhance the experience, we call it “seamless progression.” It was developed to specifically guide the reading experience so it always flows and readers don’t get stuck or sidetracked from the narrative by hitting the screen just to make things move or interact outside the context of the story.
EBN: What features don’t work at all?
VD: Any feature that isn’t driven by the content. To have tech bells and whistles without context or purpose can lead to confusion by the user and an experience that can be more distracting than engrossing.
EBN: What software and tools do you use to make eBook apps?
VD: We have developed a lot of intellectual property that I can’t discuss in depth but there’s many routes publishers can take depending on the level of interactivity, the distribution platform, multimedia features, etc. they want in their book. The most widely used tools right now are iOS based software and now Apple’s new ibooksauthor. There are some limitations to those however that other software like Cocos2d game engine or HTML5 and others that can add enhanced features such as physics, animations and high levels of interactivity.
EBN: How much is a good price for an eBook app?
VD: This is an issue hotly debated right now. eBooks really are new products and many publishers like us are creating a new category for ‘books’ that is redefining what a book is and what it can do. Thus we are all testing the waters to see what the market will bear. Current prices reflect a balance of the costs to produce the apps and the price point customers are willing to pay for them. They are not the same product as a traditional book and a great deal of the larger publishers are struggling to come to terms with that.
With more complex book apps or eBooks like ours that are highly curated and take complex execution we see the corollary closer to buying a full album of songs rather than a single function app you might spend $.99 on. But consumers have been conditioned to look for value and functionality at that $.99 price point, which we think is too low for the level of interactivity and content in a book.
That said we are offering our first title Treasure Island, a Space Dog Book for that $.99 price point as a special for SXSW through March 16. We are interested to see what the lowered price point does for traffic and purchases over the week of the show.