Webinar Summary eBooks vs. Apps: Pros, Cons, and Possibilities

I attended the Digital Book World/Aptara webinar today -eBooks vs. Apps:  The Pros, Cons, and Possibilities.  My notes are below, summarizing the content.  Very interesting webinar and some really good content, eye opening for a librarian to see what features are being discussed for enhanced ebooks, brings back memories of interfaces past and present.  Slides are available – definitely look at the comparison chart, discussed below.

Speakers: Eric Freese, Pablo Defendini and Peter Costanzo; Moderator:  Guy LeCharles Gonzalez

enhanced ebooks – are easier to develop because it the preparation of a data file, usually less expensive,  based on a standard,  interoperable because they are built on EPUB, but some vendors will wrap DRM around them making them slightly inoperable.

apps – are programs specifically written for a platform and interoperability cannot be guaranteed; easier for the functionality to be successful by it required custom development expertise.

Time/cost a factor? enhanced ebook – hire the talent, write the script, create the video, put it into a format available for ebook readers; app – you have the same files to create, but also need additional programming to make it work and that is where the higher cost will come in for the app.   Many of the decisions are editorial in nature – do we need to take people out of the story and give them a map or video?  These are some of the bigger challenges.  Many people with a variety of skills are involved and it’s similar to producing a “mini-movie.”

What’s the difference between a standard eBook and an enhanced eBook?

  • standard – a digital snapshot of the text of the book
  • enhanced – anything with extra things added

What are the major formats for eBooks: EPUB, mobi/AZW (Amazon), PDF

EPUB – there are many things that you can do in EPUB right now that support enhanced eBooks, it’s the readers that are holding people back.  Lots of talk about EPUB during the webinar, how to do particular enhancements in EPUB, limitations, etc.  Good to hear this.

PDF – important for pages that must stay in format (where page look is important) such as textbooks, EPUB can’t do this as well but it’s getting there

Sample enhancements in eBooks:  (sp – I’m pleased to discover that most library eBook platforms offer many of these options, we’re further along the enhanced trail than I thought, perhaps trade publishers should be looking to library interfaces for ideas, or hiring librarians to test the interfaces)

  • collapsible TOC (EPUB allows this, with layers too) the display is controlled by the device/software which makes it tricky
  • hidden searchable text – search on terms that might not occur in the content (i.e. used bible as example, Matthew 1:14, hide the searchable string behind that text/heading so that the search takes you right there)
  • internal linking (footnotes/annotations/cross refs/indexes)
  • external linking (geolocation/directions/associated websites) – maps, pop-ups (here’s where the library dbases aren’t as good)
  • audio – separate window or app or use html5 tag for audio, some readers can’t support html5 but can offer a message that audio should be here
  • video – insert video snapshot for separate window/app
  • interactivity – throw custom code into the file, (i.e. play flash?  not on iPad of course but you can program it to go to the fallback, ie. html5)

Very sweet chart comparing the various ereaders and enhanced capabilites with lots of Y/N/prompt answers.  Great chart!

What to consider before jumping into enhanced eBooks:

  • Rule #1 – enhancements should dictated by the content, not the other way around
  • Rule #2 – give the eBooks, enhanced eBooks, and Apps the same level of planning as print materials
  • Rule #3 – Design for graceful degradation – allows files to work on widest range of devices as possible, building in fallbacks
  • Rule #4 – keep finished sizes in mind – keep that download time in mind
  • Rule #5 – test on all target devices, test on all target devices, test on all target devices


What are the major formats for Apps: windows, IOS, android

  • video/audio/interactivity built in to content and can also be built to supplement the book rather than having everything in one package.
  • offer apps as a companion to the book – additional experience

What to consider before jumping into App development:

  • Rule #1 – No “apps for the sake of apps”
  • Rule #2 – separate content from programming as much as possible to capitalize on portability
  • Rule #3 – use open standards whenever possible

One thought on “Webinar Summary eBooks vs. Apps: Pros, Cons, and Possibilities”

  1. Great overview of the webinar, this is a great jumping off point on what enhanced eBooks will become. As I keep going back and forth over eBooks, I struggle with the notion that eBooks will continue to be called so with all of the enhancements. I say this because what it becomes is more focused on the content and what you can do with it, so is the terminology the correct one?

    I don’t know, I see a point where the reference to it being an eBook will change, people will do more with the content then simply read, they’ll interact, share and comment on the content. So is the reference to it being a form of a book going to hold?

    Anyone have the answers to that one, let me know, all I can say is that I don’t think it will, the tech and software are changing too fast, I think a new agnostic or uniformed reference will be decided upon as things play out.

    But I have to say, I’m excited to see what will come out and have some great ideas on how to enhance the eBooks. This makes you wonder though, which markets do you think will see the value in this more?

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