Navigating the Digital Publishing Landscape
This is part one of a 2-part crash course on digital publishing. In part one I’ll give a general overview of the digital publishing landscape including emerging trends, major distribution channels, and different forms of content that exist in the market. In part two I’ll give guidelines for selecting which form of content and distribution channels work best for your specific needs.
The digital publishing field is exploding with the rise of a multitude of different devices to read and experience content on. With more sophisticated devices and evolving customer expectations the emerging trend is an emphasis on visuals and the viewing experience. To this end there are now interactive books, story apps, and magazine apps which offer new ways to capture the engagement of readers.
EBooks can now contain audio, video, and interactive elements in addition to scaling/reflowing text. New distribution channels are emerging such as the iPad Newsstand platform, which gives the ability for digital, magazine-style publications to release issued content and to charge readers by the issue or via subscription. With the rise of possibilities comes a rise of confusion for content creators just entering the digital publishing space, and it comes with a need for help navigating the digital publish landscape.
The eBook, magazine, and story app space is an evolving one. Entities like Apple and Amazon are spending their time and resources towards the aim of developing the platforms, devices, and rules that best segment their markets and distinguish their products from competitors. Meanwhile, content creators, independent or large scale are doing whatever they can to maximize scales and capture the attention of their audiences. This results can lead to a muddled and tumultuous view of the digital publishing field for publishers and content creators just entering the space.
New distribution channels are emerging and existing distribution channels are evolving. With the influx of eBooks masquerading as apps in the iTunes App Store, Apple has been at work tightening the rules to keep content in the right distribution channels and segment their markets. That being said an iPad or iPhone app is still a viable medium for digitally published content assuming the experience is fitting to Apple’s preferences.
An easy way to get a good view of distribution channels is by pairing stores with their target devices, but this can be a bit tricky when you factor in apps as a content medium.
Some of the main distribution channels for digitally published content are:
- iPad & iPhone… iTunes App Store and iTunes Books Store (aka iBookstore store on the device),
- Kindle… Amazon Kindle Store,
- Nook… B&N Nook Store and Nook Newstand,
- Android (phone & tablet)… Google Play Store and Sony Reader Store
- Sony Reader… Sony Reader Store
It’s important that your content lives as many places as it can to reach the largest audience. This means having your content converted into different formats and optimized for different devices. Of course it isn’t necessary to be on every single store in every format, just the ones that make sense for your content, target audience, and budget.
An app is an eBook is an iBook
Terminology can mean different things depending upon the way words are used, the understanding of the digital publishing field that the person has, or the audience the person is talking to. Almost anything is technically an application, including an eBook. Interactive books can be referred to as eBooks whether they are in the format of an app one would buy in the App Store or the iBookstore. An eBook is probably used most often used to describe a prominently text-based media that could be used on a device like a Kindle, but that doesn’t mean that the next time you hear the word eBook it’s referring to an app – Language is evolving too.
Adding to the confusion eBooks can masquerade as apps and apps can masquerade as eBooks. Apps that are almost identical to ebooks exist in the app store even though guidelines are tightening to restrict this from happening. It may have been a fluke – apps that don’t follow guidelines are sometimes accepted, perhaps on the whims of the person at Apple reviewing submissions. In other cases developers and content creators push the boundaries of interactivity in iBooks creating compelling and engaging reading experiences that cause people to question whether something is an app or an eBook.
In part two I’ll go into more detail on the differences between different digital publishing formats and how to select the right format for needs. In the mean time, get started writing your ebook.