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Denise Brodey Headshot

Are You App Happy? You Should Be

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Think about movie launches: The big ones have trailers and licensed toys and behind-the-scenes blogs, stars a-Twittering -- well before the movie appears. Soon, one can imagine, the publishing world will be no different. Trends do tend to go where the money is, and right now, according to a story in Entrepreneur, App store developer revenues are topping $900 million and consumers are downloading more than 100 million free and premium applications every month. But could all those applications really be book-related? Yes, actually. A recent report on businessweek.com titled "Readers Are Devouring Apple Book Apps" explained that in 2010, eBooks are now the largest content category at the App store -- beating out games (even the very addictive Bejeweled and Ragdoll and Words with Friends). Pretty amazing.

It seems a little odd to be hyperventilating over the huge power and potentially rabid fan-base of the iPad when so few of us have actually held one in our hands. (Let's not forget that the Kindle's new technology has changed an old medium in amazing ways.) But the future is just around the corner. Look at what publishers like Penguin have to say: "Penguin's decision to sell books as applications foreshadows a very interesting split....sell books or apps," a recent blogger at Gizmodo wisely observed. Devil's advocates rightly point out that this type of thing, especially when geared towards kids, isn't much different than the software we bought years ago to teach kids to read or play math games. This isn't actually negative, just something to note. And there are some fairly lame apps that do even worse than feel like outdated software. They're yawn-worthy power point presentations in app form. Great Career by Steven Covey is not my favorite nor is Steve Chandler's 100 Ways to Motivate Others.

True changemakers in the field will help a user navigate where a book cannot -- without overshadowing the text. A commendable example is The Lonely Planet book series, which launched apps that enable book fans to use audio and GPS guides at Frommer's does this too, but without the GPS functionality. Businesses and doctors that use medical technology on a daily basis are benefitting from books with apps like those made by Modality that let quickly zoom in on, study and navigate complicated medical texts when you're out and about. In the coming year, more small authors will begin thinking like big-time publishers and using DIY marketing to create their own buzz. For truly cutting edge, try www.cathysbook.com. The future is storytelling across multiple platforms, otherwise known as transmedia. Find interesting tips here. Gotcha thinking, right? How could the books you love become bookopolies complete with apps that make them sail? It's going to be an interesting year.