More App-bout Books

On 6th October an article on the Bookseller announced that Waterstones were to remove the Kindle from their shelves, in a bid to replace it with non-digital products. Does this spark the decline in the frenzy for e-reading? Was on screen content a flash in the pan?

Not so!

It is argued by many that in order to feed the demand for digital products from publishers, the industry needs to do more than provide its content in a digital format. While an e-reader is great for taking books on holiday, reading on the train, and allowing you to read 50 Shades of Grey without too many horrified (or unwelcome!) looks it hardly adds to the experience of reading. If anything, in this format almost everything has been removed from the book – including the physical book itself. As a population who spend hours on mobile devices and has the world literally at our fingertips, it is not enough to read a paperback on screen. Quite simply -we want more!

And more there shall be. Whilst Kindle helped us to ‘dip our toes’ into the idea of on-screen reading, the plethora of reading apps now available mean that we no longer need a separate device to access the written word.

Joe Wikert (on bookbusinessmag.com) argues that reading apps should provide “companion content for mobile – not just restructuring existing content”. For Wikert, a reading app would go above and beyond the books content “provid[ing] wider reading to accompany a book” – facts about the author, the characters and the setting that are optimised for a relatively small smartphone screen. All of this extra content could both ‘keep you going’ at times when you can’t read a full chapter, and of course be used as a clever marketing tool to promote the author and other titles on the publishers list.

Existing already are apps that have content specifically written for them. ‘Hooked’ is a subscription based app that provide short stories that “take the form of text message conversations”. Thus making them easier to digest on mobile devices. ‘Arcadia by Iain Pears’ is a novel that was specifically written for an app format, allowing the reader to make sense of the ten different strands (or tales) of the narrative and choose how to navigate between them.

In many ways I agree with Wikert that if I am to be presented with a reading app, I want it to provide me with more than ‘just a book’. To entice a physical copy of a text out of my hands I want there to be a purpose to receiving the same product digitally. Iain Pears’ app/novel is an exciting prospect which I think suits the interweaving nature of his narrative – it will be interesting to see where it leads and if this is to be the dawn of a whole new genre of writing.

If you want to know more, Stuart Dredge has listed his ’10 Best Interactive Book Apps’.

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