Charleston Conference – Mobile Reference Apps

Casper Grathwohl from Oxford University Press and Kassidy Lackey from Handmark spoke about mobile applications for reference tools.  Casper provided examples of several vendor-based apps like Gale’s AccessMyLibrary, university library mobile apps, and some apps designed for OUP.  OUP has 85 apps, which cover a variety of reference subjects.  These are marketed mostly to the consumer and OUP reports close to 1 million in application revenue, which is only a small part of their complete revenue.  Casper was surprised to see that libraries and publishers are not yet working together on mobile apps but felt that the opportunities are available, particularly in the area of discovery since both parties have a vested interest in seeing use of the content.

Kassidy Lackey, VP and GM of Handmark, provided an overview of designing for mobile apps, which his company has done since 2000.  He displayed a chart that showed the breakdown of mobile devices and said that companies/libraries need to design for about 10 devices, as apple is only 14% of market.  Yet the apple app store has had 7 billion downloads in it’s short 2 year existence.

The Handmark apps include options like fuzzy search (if you don’t have the correct spelling), social integration (with FB, twitter, etc.), crowdsourcing (users can comment/add words), word of the day, word games, audio, tags and augmented reality.  One example of the augmented reality included zagat ratings on restaurants for a particular location where a user has taken a photo.

Questions/Answers from audience:

Apps vs. mobile browsers, does anyone have any data to support either one?

Kassidy suggested that we do both in order to capture the complete market.  He does recommend apps as we have an opportunity to create an experience better than a browser.

Who is buying apps?

One problem with apps is the lack of end user data.  According to Casper, we have  less information about users who buy apps than we do about users at our web sites because the user information is stored/kept by the app store.

If there is an app for every title you sell, that will be a problem in the long run (too many silos).

Casper said that sales for any one of the individual titles aren’t huge but they are enough to justify the development of them. Ultimately we need a solution to this so that sources can be searched together.