If any further proof were needed of the benefits of going digital with content, the launch last week of David R. Godine Publisher’s first app should convince those still on the fence. The house has digitized its 1981 book Crime & Puzzlement, the first installment in an eponymous series by Lawrence Treat, a founder of the Mystery Writers of America. “Who would think that we would ever be so 21st century, and so early in the century, too?” asked publicist Sue Ramin, referring to the press’s insistence on high-quality paper, printing, and binding since its founding more than four decades ago. While it’s too early to see the effect on book sales—there are 50,000 copies in print after a recent 11th printing of 5,000 copies—app sales are going strong.
In the first four days since its release, the Crime and Puzzlement app rose to the Top 10 slot in iPhone and iPad apps in Japan, Top 20 in Germany, and Top 100 in the U.S. The app was developed by Bangor, Maine-based newcomer AppEndix, the Interactive Book Company, which had approached Godine with the idea of turning Treat titles into apps. The series fit owner Martin van Balkom’s goal of moving gamebooks from the 1980s and ‘90s into the 21st century, as mobile apps. He’d read the Treat books as a child, and he says that he was drawn to their mix of picture mystery/hidden object game, crime short story, and puzzle, all elements found in apps today. AppEndix will release the entire Crime & Punishment series from Godine and is in discussions with the press for a separate book from another author.
Not that Godine is exactly rushing headlong into the digital world. Godine himself describes it more as “a snail’s pace adaptation.” To date, the company has converted nine titles into e-books over the past two years, but the process could speed up starting in 2013 thanks to a new contract with INscribe Digital and a concerted effort to clear electronic rights for backlist titles. Part of the reason that Godine chose INscribe, according to new media marketing assistant Kristin Brodeur, is that it offers a fixed layout e-book that works well for converting picture books. Previous children’s titles released as e-editions included The American Girls Handy Book and The American Boys Handy Book, which are available as PDFs on Google Play.