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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Why APPs need ISBN numbers

I love all the new technology and ways to share our stories, but in the development of LULA'S BREW for the iPhone and iPad, I've hit a hiccup. Yes, LULA'S BREW is a digital book, but without an ISBN number she is just an APP. Technically an APP is not an eBook (currently).
     What's the difference?
     The technology used to flow text (like novels) in eReaders is called "ePub" and it cannot support full page image bleeds, audio, and/or interactivity.* Problem is, those possibilities are exactly what picture book, graphic novel, and educational publishers are so excited about. But to embrace the new possibilities the end result for most of the creators in these genres has to be an APP. The challenge after getting an APP created is getting it found.
     Right now, an APP cannot be listed on any of the author search engines like BookTour.com, filedby.com, Indiebound.com, etc. (All books are connected to their creators via ISBN#s.) They can't even exist in the Apple iBookstore because ALL the books listed in the iBookstore currently use ePub programming and nothing else. So all of the lush and wonderful picture books that are being turned into APPs are currently drowning in a sea of games, calorie counters, and restaurant finders.
     What can the picture book and educational publishers do to make sure their books are listed as eBooks and sold within the iBookstore? What would have to change?
     Either the functionality of an eBook using the ePub system would have to be adapted to support much higher functionality (probably possible but a major undertaking).
     APPS need a way to be assigned ISBN#s so they can be listed as eBOOKS. You know, ISBN#s - those little bar codes on the back of books and magazines that allow stores to plug them into their systems, track sales, but more importantly, make it possible to find the book within a search engine.
     The ISBN# application process could remain the same and books that began as physical books will of course already have an ISBN# - perhaps an 'e' could be added to the code. But books that begin life electronically would also need to go through this process. To work, all it would require is a system to list the ISBN# within the APP coding.
     Granted, the Library of Congress would have to wrap their heads around the idea that they would be assigning content numbers to what can on a level be described as air. And perhaps that's why it hasn't happened yet seeing as it's such a simple solution.
     But this industry is changing by the hour. Publishers all over the world are trying to agree upon ONE technology for eBooks that would work on all eReaders. I think they're missing the point. One is not enough. ePub works great for novels, but APP technology needs to be used for everything else. And the only way for APPs to be included in our world of books is for them to be searchable in the same way. To my mind, ISBN#s are the answer.
     Not to mention, an ISBN# gives APPs a way to be searchable by mechanisms other than just iTunes. Think of the possibilities. Maybe they could be used for affiliate accounts for Independent Bookstores to integrate them into their websites with a percentage profit built in for APPs purchased through their site? But I'm getting ahead of myself...
     What do you think? Is there something I don't know about? Technology I'm not aware of? Or should we start a movement and make this happen? Please share if you agree with me!

     *Yes, a vignette image or illustration can be locked into a location within the text (like in the free "Winnie the Pooh" they are currently giving away in the Apple iBookstore), but any picture book creator will tell you that is not really a picture book - not the way we want to create them.

Update: They are starting to embed video and music in this same manner, so there is more interactivity, but still no image bleed.


J. E. Morris said...

Interesting issue. With all the different technology it's really blurring the lines as to what is or is not a book.

Ben Woodard said...

I didn't know you couldn't get an ISBN for an app. According to Smashwords, Apple and other retailers require an ISBN for ebooks.


However, Smashwords only does epub. Apps must be different.

BTW did you get my email?

Elizabeth O. Dulemba said...

Truly, it's an exciting time to be a creator, but a bit confusing too. We are forging a new frontier and there are no rules - where rules are needed.

Exactly my point Ben. Book Apps don't require ISBN#s and therefore don't come up in the same search engines - despite the fact that they are also books.

ipad application development said...

Vary nice post,
Some services charge an upfront fee such as a flat fee for each year is in their store, with an additional fee to register your ISBN number.


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