Saturday, December 1, 2012

Apps Have a Story to Tell

Ongoing times are often being referred to as the dawn of tablet era. Mobile/handheld devices do have the charm and wow factor associated with them whether in terms of their sleek bodies, light weight or the assistance they offer to users through state-of-the-art mobile applications. Mobile world is marching rapidly and is influencing more and more areas with its Midas touch. Books and education could not remain unaffected either.

Mobile (App)lication is a software application designed for a particular purpose to run on smart phones, tablets and other mobile devices. Depending on the device that one possesses, apps can be procured from relevant app stores - Apple's App Store, Android store, Windows Phone Marketplace and many other providers.

Since the advent of printing press, not much has changed in terms of traditional books that still adorn the book shelves in our homes. But digital publishing has been a major breakthrough in extending the reach of literature far and wide. Books metamorphosed into eBooks and the written matter danced digitally on screens of computers, laptops and on some specifically designed eReaders. But this was not it. A significant step jump happened with the advent of mobile applications and the books got re-imagined and re-created as Book Apps riding high on the capabilities of smart devices. With this, the content which was lying in one format embedded deep in the pages has now become mobile and portable.

Book apps offer many features ranging from hearing the text narrated in language of your choice, relevant audio and video clips appended with the text, to sound tracks and appropriate sound effects accentuating the impact of the story.

Interestingly, book apps are revolutionizing the children book space like never before by providing features which are hard to replicate on a print version -
  • Record your own voice with the text and be a narrator yourself
  • Hear the difficult words spell out with their meanings
  • Personalise the book by adding character names of your own choice
  • Get involved in plot creation by giving your inputs as the story progresses
  • Re-paint the pictures to give a personal touch to illustrations
  • Interact through illustrations in the story
The bottom line is to provide more richer and fuller reading experience.

Book apps have not just reached various places, they aim to influence all segments of society too. Though hard to believe, book apps have also been designed for babies as young as three months old, which claim to strengthen children's hearing, visual and motor skills. I wonder if somebody would soon come up with an app for - yet to be born babies idling away their time in mother's wombs, for some more skill boosting. 'Catch them young', is anyway the mantra these days. Why, we all are aware of Abhimanyu's (Mahabharata) case, aren't we?

Here is a market which is still in its infancy and is up for grabs by whosoever shows intelligence, wisdom, creativity and foresightedness to tap it in the right manner at the right time. Writers, publishers, App developers, app vendors, platform owners and device manufacturers, there are roles for each one of them.

Book apps have given a new lease of life to many authors who find it hard to get a nod from the publishers. They now have an option to convert their manuscripts to book apps using software made available by many companies.

Perhaps this rejuvenation of books has come at the right time as we see lesser and lesser book stores stocking classics and old books these days. Now for lovers of classics, these books are reaching their homes and most of them are completely free.

 Some of the Indian players who are earning recognition in digital content publishing arena are fliplog, NineApp, MeMeTales and Naavica systems. Some have joined hands with Indian publishers like Pratham and Tulika to bring out the Indian content on devices. Lack of resources and limited finances always pose extra challenge in Indian scenario as attempts are made to create jazzed up apps which can compete internationally in professional way. Supporting multilingual digital content is a wide area of scope in itself but finding portals for such content is another challenge.

Apple, Android, Windows and Blackberry are major platform providers for book apps, however the former two are dominating the market at this stage. There is no dearth of devices available to host Book Apps. Apple devices such as  iPod touch, iPad and iPhone can run apps written in Apple iOS, Google's Android apps are supported by many including Kindle and Samsung devices and Windows apps find their host in HTC devices and in some Samsung devices. And almost all of these have their presence in Indian market, including Kindle.  Kindle which was initially an eReader has gone through various phases of evolution and now is a safe platform which works as a reader as well as hosts book apps. Using free Kindle app, a user gets the functionality to download kindle compliant books from Amazon. The print versions which could not be delivered in India through Amazon have found another route to reach Indian readers. All platforms host some free book apps as well which mainly work as crowd pullers for subsequent sale.  Moreover, under Project Gutenberg (, more than 40,000 free eBooks are available which can be displayed on any of the devices.

Each of the platforms for mobile applications has an integrated development environment (IDE), to write, test and deploy applications into the target environment. It’s a boon for developers as they can create an app from the confines of a cubicle and have it deployed on the app stores.

While some apps are designed for specific platforms, many come with cross-platform compatibility. Eventually the aim is to arrive at a situation where a user downloads a book app with specific functionality and then keeps reading the content(books) riding on those base features. For instance a person who is interested in reading books with dictionary support should be able to have an app which offers this much only. While for another who wants interactivity, voice, video with the books should be able to get that app even though the content is same in both the cases. Keeping this in mind, work is underway at three levels - to make book app platforms intelligent and customizable suiting the needs of users, standardizing the content format for easy portability across various platforms and having code compatibility for multiple platforms.

Book Apps have arrived and they are here to stay. What better way to express the transition from traditional books to apps than in Manish Verma's (Project Director, Fidelity Information Services, ASEAN) words, "Books have died but long live the books".

Oceanhouse Media, Inc. is a leading publisher of more than 250 apps for the mobile market. Apps are available for iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch), Android, NOOK Tablets, Kindle Fire and HP TouchPad devices. The companys mantra is Creativity with Purpose, developing apps that uplift, educate and inspire. 

Q&A session with Michel Kripalani, President of Oceanhouse Media, Inc. which is a leading developer and publisher of apps for the mobile market.

1) What is the reason for success of mobile book apps over the regular books?

There are several reasons. More and more people are using their smartphones and tablets for reading and entertainment. Digital books apps are typically priced below their print counterparts. Readers can also have their entire library with them when they’re away from home. For children, interactive features such as word highlighting and tappable words help build reading skills.

2) What are the objectives of (Oceanhouse Media) Om books through these apps?

Our company’s mantra is creativity with purpose. We focus on developing apps that uplift, educate and inspire. Oceanhouse Media digital books (omBooks) stay true to the original content of the author, while providing enhanced features that help promote reading in children. We add features, such as professional narration and background audio, that make story time educational and engaging for young readers.

3) What are the challenges in this field?

With more than 650,000 apps on the App Store alone, it’s challenging to stand out in this marketplace. The competition is enormous and will only continue to increase as consumer demands move from traditional desktop to mobile devices.

Oceanhouse Media has been fortunate in that our apps continue to be at the top of the charts. Our omBooks from popular authors such as Dr. Seuss, the Berenstains and Mercer Mayer have found a home on the app market and consumers are enjoying these favorite childhood stories on their mobile devices.

4) What is the future for the mobile book apps?

There’s an increase in the use of digital books in classrooms around the world and soon I believe they’ll be incorporated into the standard curriculum. I’ve already seen elementary-age students using our omBooks on tablets in their classes. This will only increase as more schools gain access to mobile devices.

Q&A session with Rashmi Sachan of Fliplog, which is providing a digital content publishing platform to create cloud-ready native apps for various available devices.

1)  What is the scope of book apps in India and what is the scope of Indian book apps?

Indian e-Book market is at it's early stage. Pretty much all the publishers we have talked to have placed ebook and digital migration as their top most priority. In some cases it's a survival issue. Most new publishers are starting with e-versions and apps/games based on the books characters and story line. We can expect plenty of growth in the future.

2) What are specific challenges of Indian marker?

Indian market is unique as it is uniquely placed on both consumption and supply side. We are starting from low per capita book consumption so there is a huge possibility in growing reader base. Technologically, we can leapfrog and leverage tablet and digital distribution to solve access problem.

3) How well are Indian apps accepted worldwide?

Digital apps have a global reach. There is a lot of scope for quality apps appealing to the global audiences. 

4) What is the gap between our market and the international market, if there is any?

There is a wide gap between our market and international market. Historically we have been big buyer of books. With overall economy growing and lower pricing of digital books, we expect things to change and eventually the gap should narrow on the digital platform.

More about Fliplog on our website - 

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