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Digital publishing: When a book is not a book

One of the good things about a holiday period for many people is that it gives them time to catch up on books they have yet to read. Being a techie geek, it was a good time for me to catch up on some new iPad apps.  Getting any face time with the iPad these days is hard, as my 2,5 year old daughter has officially adopted it as hers.  Which is also why it led me to check out what was new on the kiddie front.

One of the more well known children’s books is Spot Goes to School from Penguin Books.  My daughter absolutely loves the little animations and can’t get enough of the mini game where you shake the iPad and have to put various things that have fallen off a table back on. Another brilliant one is Astrojammies, from upstart digital publisher DemiBooks.  Astrojammies uses a great mix of audio, movement and interaction to spellbind kids who are reading it. 

Common for both is that they use an arrow to navigate back and forth – i.e. “turning the pages”, which is clearly how we are used to reading books today. But given the possibilities in the format, and the number of ways a “reader” can interact, is it really appropriate to refer to them as books?  Are they not simply digital experiences? 



With upstarts like Demibooks blazing trails, this market is poised to shake up the very concept of book publishing in a very short time.  Clearly users have outpaced the publishing industry here, as there are only a handful of good concepts on the market. But talent has not been outpaced, they simply need to see what is possible. My sister in law, who is an accomplished writer of childrens books was spellbound by Astrojammies, so much in fact she got up the next day at 6am to write a script, only to get disappointed to find out that there is a pretty substantial cost in developing this type of “book”. 

Clearly the market is there for the taking for companies wanting to create an eco-system for writers, animators, and digital creators.  And when talented writers discover not only the possibilites of what they create, but that they can actually get feedback on what pages were watched, which paths the readers took, which animations they played with the most etc – the quality of what you will see getting published will be that much better.  Connecting authors with readers to create a “living story” will be the ultimate fantasy for many authors, which is impossible today when most of them are only lucky enought to get a paycheck reflecting the numbers sold.  The future is here, and companies like Demibooks and others are trying to grab it.

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