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Books Are The New Apps
April 3, 2012 - 9:33pm

Have you noticed that books are looking more and more like apps? Do you find yourself buying books from the Kindle Single store? Browsing the nonfiction selections at nowandthenreader.com? Checking out the original stories at atavist.net? Getting excited about the newest release from the TED Books? 

Some similarities between e-books and apps:

Cheap: Apps are cheap enough to be impulse buys. Apps are cheap enough that the market to buy them includes many more people than could ever purchase (legally) the full programs.  A concise e-book at for $3 or less removes most of the financial barrier for purchase.  A book that is cheaper than a cup of coffee will be purchased or not for reasons beyond cost. The low price points of short e-books will drive demand for these books just as the demand for apps has grown due to the low prices.

Small:  Apps are attractive not only because they are cheap, but because they are simple. Turns out that we don't really need complicated programs that can do tons of different things. We like small programs that do one or two things really well. A concise e-book is not a diminished "regular" book - it is more appealing because it is short. Many arguments or narratives do not need 300 pages to tell their stories. 75 to 100 pages can work quite nicely. When books are short they are tight, with extraneous language and non-important details removed. Short books let us read more books.  

Up-Sell:  The app economy is not only built on cheap, it is built on free. Sometimes the revenue model is ads, but often the goal is to up-sell the buyer to the full version of the app. This seems to be a successful strategy. Concise e-books follow the same path. How many Kindle Samples have you downloaded? I have 414 free Kindle Samples (usually the first chapter) on my Kindle. And once I've read the first chapter I'm much more likely to buy the whole book.

Downloadable and (Only) Virtual:  Are the days of installing applications from CDs (or DVDs) done? Our programs are becoming apps, and our apps are being delivered online via the app stores. Even if we wanted to buy the apps on physical media we would be out of luck. Concise e-books are losing their physical twins.  You cannot get a paperback version of a Kindle Single, a TED book, an Atavist title, or a selection from NowAndThenReader.   Computer programs and books were always information, but were delivered in physical vessels (disks and paper). No longer.

Mobile:  Are most apps purchased on mobile devices or on computers? I don't know. I'm guessing mobile. We buy apps for our smart phones and tablets, although the model is being extending to our laptops. We definitely use our apps on our mobile devices. Our smart phones and tablets are platforms for our apps. How many apps do you have installed on your phone? I still buy most of my concise e-books through a browser on my laptop. The e-books are then delivered wireless and automatically to my Kindle and all of my Kindle apps. The books automatically sync, so whatever screen I'm on I'm always on the correct page. Purchasing books will most likely migrate to mobile platforms as the business models are figured out. The reason you can't purchase a Kindle Single from your Kindle iPhone app is that Apple insists on either getting a cut of the purchase price (one-third I think), or disabling this feature. This is short sighted on Apple's part, as it will only push Amazon to design and sell mobile computing platforms at cost (or below) to channel consumers to Amazon digital content. Don't be surprised to see a Kindle phone in the future.

Disruptive: Apps are disruptive because they have the potential to cut out the large software publishers. Individuals can code an app, and sell them on the Apple or Android (or Windows?) app stores. The costs of packaging and advertising and fulfillment all disappear. Short e-books are disruptive because they can cut-out the traditional publishers. Amazon does not need a publishing house to put out Kindle Singles. They do not need a publisher to convince booksellers to carry the books in bookstores. They do not need to anticipate print runs or deal with returns.  Amazon can feature Kindle Singles on the Amazon pages, guaranteeing that many potential buyers will be exposed to the books. Individual authors can become the new app developers.  We can write books to be offered as digital downloads on e-book stores, bypassing the publisher submission process. There are many more authors than opportunities to publish in the traditional system. E-books are re-writing the economics of scarcity in the publishing world.

What short e-books have you downloaded?

 

 

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