When Publishing Trends published its first App Developer Round-up in February 2011, the publishing world might have just then been reaching the height of app mania. Publishers were still flushed with excitement over the Great Downloading Spree of Christmas 2010; Kirkus had just announced the addition of a book app review section to every issue; and downloadable content seemed to hold almost infinite promise. As 2011 wore on, though, challenges such as cost and discoverability made themselves felt. The lesson about app development for book publishers became all too clear: just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
But as demonstrated by this year’s chart, the app development industry itself was far from diminished by these challenges. Newcomers abound, and additions to this year’s list include Auryn, One Hundred Robots, PicPocket Books, Zuuka, and others. While there are almost innumerable developers out there who are creating their own original book apps (usually picture books), we’ve chosen to list only those companies who have experience working with book and/or magazine publishers to transform born-as-print media into apps and enhanced ebooks.
The book section in the Apple app store is dominated primarily by children’s titles. As was discovered early on, creating a successful app for an adult title is a greater challenge. Bestselling adult titles tend to be in the Christian devotional/Bible category, like Jesus Calling from The New York Times-bestseller by Sarah Young (Thomas Nelson), and reference titles, such as the Audubon series developed by Green Mountain Digital.
No matter whether adult reference, children’s, or proprietary platforms, almost all of the 22 developers in the 2012 App Developer Round-up have a well-defined specialty and approach. This seems well-suited to a time when selectivity and focus are the guiding principles behind a successful app strategy, no matter how big or small.
* Updated 7/31 to include Brandwidth in chart.