Standalone eBook applications (apps) are increasingly common in the eBook space, but many people do not know the difference between these apps and actual eBook files. While applications like Toy Story and The Cat in the Hat are very interactive and have a lot of additional features that you cannot add to an eBook, their creation, delivery, and marketing are completely different than children’s eBooks.
Please note: This page does not discuss children’s eBooks, it is only intended to give you an overview of eBook applications, how they work, and the issues that come with developing such applications. eBook Architects does not normally suggest creating standalone eBook applications unless there is a clear need for one due to functionality that is not available in standard children’s eBook files.
Creating applications like these is usually a very expensive endeavor, and there are many pitfalls you need to know how to avoid along the way. Before you begin, you need to decide what you want your eBook to look and function like. Once you have that goal in your head, research apps and eBooks and compare them to each other on a point-by-point basis and see what will work best to meet your vision for the end product.
eBooks and apps are typically created with different code and using different tools. While some children’s book apps are build using HTML and CSS like an eBooks, they also have to include other code and functionality to replicate the interaction of the eBook software itself (e.g., page turn animations, bookmarks, etc.). As a result, there are some companies that create “eBook apps” that really do not offer you anything more than you can get in standard eBook files. If the app company you are talking with says you can have narration overlays, some clickable areas, and a game at the end of the book, then you might want to compare those features to the comparable features in a children’e eBook.
To have an app built, you will need to find a developer or a company that creates iOS and/or Android apps (more on that below) and work with them to develop the perfect app for your book. The cost of a good, highly-functional eBook app can be as much as $25,000, so it is not usually a path for many childrens book authors.
While eBook files are designed to be sold through the eBook retailers (e.g., Amazon, Apple, and B&N), apps are designed to be sold through app stores (e.g., iTunes, Google Play, and the Amazon Appstore). This means that your app will be competing against games like Angry Birds for attention in the stores, and you will probably need to rely on the app developer to get the apps they create up for sale, as those uploading processes are typically created with developers in mind, not publishers or authors.
In addition, most app stores do not have very good categorization breakdowns. Unfortunately, your app will probably be stuck in a single category with hundreds or even thousands of other apps and books, including the actual eBook reading apps like Kindle for Android, iBooks, etc. This makes marketing your eBook difficult, as does the confusion about where the book is available for purchase.
The best advice we have for clients desiring to build an eBook app is: