FSpaceRPG article

Status: Official

Everyone may be wondering why I’ve dived into iPhone Ebooks, and why we have our own ebook engine.

The Apple iTunes AppStore has been a great marketplace for many vendors, and is very popular with owners of those devices. The iPhone when it was first launched was one of the most capable pocket devices I’ve seen in recent years and outdid the likes of Palm. HP, HTC and others of the time. Now the whole industry has caught on. also the AppStore is one central marketplace for these device owners, meaning it was a good starting point.

The good thing is that Ebooks became an instant hit on them, not as downloads for seperate applications, but as applications in their own right. I’ve had no end of trouble using the likes of Stanza to sync my ebooks to it from Stanza on a computer. I’ve used Datacase and others which are okay for PDFs, Word files and others. But still wifi syncing it needed. Granted those are easier than Stanza.

But the trick is you can buy apps straight from your mobile, and many in the Japanese market own cellphones and not computers these days, meaning anything they buy and download must be by phone. Apple have now allowed in-app purchases, which might be a way past things, but I want to keep it simple.

Why not use another ebook engine vendor?

Because their cut is too great. It make the proposition of using them, and Apple’s take work out to be as bad as Google, amazon or Mobipocket.

Dealing with Apple directly means more transparent reporting, control of marketing, and a cut from Apple which sit in the range we get from OneBookShelf or Lulu.

Like all struggling small publishers we need to maximise our return on investment (we still are making a loss at the moment).

Also we want to ship helpful gaming applications, some of which have nothing to do with ebooks, or even our games.

How good is our engine?

It’s basic - nothing like some of the advanced engines on the market at the moment. But we can only improve it from here. And this also means thanks to apple’s business model, the users can get those upgrades for the book they purchased free of charge. You’re paying for the content in this case. And our prices make them fairly equivalent to the PDF versions as a result.

Are Ebooks even worth buying from the AppStore?

Ebooks have proven to be one of the most popular type of application being listed in the iTunes AppStore. Recently they have just outstripped Games as the highest number of releases per category (according to data collected by Flurry). Also people are spending 300% more time in the Ebook area of the sttore with 3 million unique users of that area from April to July of this year. Pretty interesting stats.

Also the approach taken by others, and by us is to create our own engines for display, format and navigation of books, breaking out of the standard paradigms of the major ebook platform/software/format developers. With the power of a publisher direct to public we can try and break out of standards imposed by others that don’t work too well on handhelds. Stanza version so any of my books look terrible, both of PC/Macs and iPhone. Mobipocket is kind of alright, but getting granular control is a real pig.

With Apple rumoured to be delivering a tablet that just might support ebooks better, this might be a good place to position ourselves.

Also the standard iTunes upgrades in the last 12 months has seen some really unique methods of delivery which we are set to deliver on. Expect to see some interesting synergies.

Apple’s just a nobody in the scheme of things you might say - why this platform?

Well I like Apple’s products. They might not do things right, but they get them better than most. And the iPhone and it’s handheld media player/game console the iPod Touch have been eating up market share.

The iPhone now makes up 33% of all touchscreen phones. Cellphones are a huge growth market, but smartphones and touchscreen phones in general. They’ve hit 2.5% workwide cellphone marketshare and have over 11% of the smartphone market, and are currently the number 1 selling smartphone in the US and many other markets.

Even Nintendo have been feeling the pinch from the recession and competition from Apple’s iPod Touch.

We are sitting in a market that is growing against the trends of other vendors.

And others are following Apple’s example. Both Android phones (and the future Android OS) and Palm’s WebOS all use technology based around some of the things I’ve been playing around with for the iPhone.

All I can say is the future is bright, and it’s best to be there at the right time and stick to it. I was in the gaming ebook market with Hyperbooks at the beginning, but didn’t follow up for years, and wasn’t with OneBookShelf when they got going, so we missed years worth of opportunities when we had a dozen product already sitting there in PDF ready to go.

So I’m not remaining still now.

Categories: Development

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