Random House has done dozens of apps so far. According to Nina von Moltke, v-p of digital publishing development, RH decides what books might make good apps by looking "at specific categories, brands, and titles for which an experience beyond e-book would provide a significant benefit." The most obvious, not surprisingly, are children's, lifestyle, travel, reference, and, occasionally, celebrity books. Asked how RH differentiates between an app and an enhanced e-book, von Moltke said an enhanced e-book could be an app, since anything sold in the App Store is considered an app. Speaking to notable apps in the pipeline, von Moltke said there are more apps to come from Fodor's—there are currently five Fodor's apps, mostly city guides, available in the App Store—as well as apps based on children's books, including two from the house's Schwartz & Wade imprint: Princess Baby and How Rocket Learned to Read. (In September RH announced a partnership with the digital media agency Smashing Ideas to create apps for its children's titles.) RH is also prepping a bartender app and a number of language apps.
Simon & Schuster
Simon & Schuster's chief digital officer, Ellie Hirschhorn, said S&S is "learning a ton" from its app development. "Apps should be an extension of the book," she said, so S&S apps mostly contain excerpts or links to books, whereas e-books "should be sold in e-bookstores," due to differences in how apps and e-books are priced, marketed, and discovered by customers. S&S's first app was the 365 Crossword Puzzles app, which was recently revamped for the iPad; since then Hirschhorn estimates S&S has done two or three dozen more apps in broad categories: apps for fans (such as Jodi Picoult's, which lets readers follow the author through social networks, blogs, and other media); utilities (cookbook apps, The Klingon Dictionary, and Pimsleur 2Go language apps); and games (Bro to Go, based on The Bro Code). S&S does much of the front-end design for the user experience in-house, but usually outsources the back-end coding. Prices range from free for the Picoult to $11.99 for The Klingon Dictionary.
The difference between enhanced e-books and an app is simple, Sourcebooks CEO Dominique Raccah, said: "It's interactivity; if the reader can do stuff with the content, it's an app." Earlier this year, at the Tools of Change conference in New York, Raccah outlined an ambitious plan to develop apps based on the Sourcebooks list, citing more than 50 apps in development. Since then, she said, the house has become much more selective.Now the house has 12 apps in the marketplace (priced from free to $9.99) and about 20 apps in development; "most of them" will run on both the iPhone and the iPad. Sourcebooks is a licensed Apple developer and "does almost all the development, except the programming, in-house," with development costs ranging from $3,000 to about $10,000, Raccah said. While Sourcebooks has had success basing apps on nonfiction, such as quiz books and baby names, Raccah said even fiction can work and pointed to the success of the house's $1.99 iDrakula app, which she compared to Perseus's Cathy's Book app. Based on Bram Stoker's classic horror novel, iDrakula recreates the 19th-century novel as a contemporary epistolary e-novel retold though text messages and e-mail. The app can be downloaded for free and begins the story, but the reader must buy the rest of the updated story. Raccah said there have been 20,000 downloads of iDrakula. "We promoted it heavily," she said and even praised the much-maligned App Store for helping the promotional effort. Raccah emphasized the importance of doing a "competitive analysis" of apps. "I killed a bunch of apps because there were too many in the market already like them," she said. "The App Store is like any other store," she explained. "Discovery can be difficult. But we've learned a lot about what it takes to go viral." She said to look for Sourcebooks to partner with other publishers and even agents to develop apps in the future.