There are those in publishing who think the current push into apps and enhanced e-books is premature, believing that these book add-ons—ideal for tablet PCs that allow the incorporation of dynamic images and videos—are the CD-ROM of the 21st century. Karen Rinaldi, executive v-p and publisher of Rodale Books, is not one of those people. Although Rinaldi will be the first to tell you that she doesn't see the appeal of adding a bunch of digital bells and whistles to novels (or even serious nonfiction), she does think the kind of content her houses specializes in—how-to books on everything from diet and exercise to gardening—is ripe for the digital enhancements publishers have been slowly and cautiously testing. For this reason, Rinaldi has established a streamlined approach that she thinks will allow the company to delve wisely into this new market.
With the recent release of its first app, Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis (based on Al Gore's book of the same title), Rodale is unveiling a lineup of enhanced e-books that are based on new and backlist titles, as well as content from the company's suite of magazines (which include Runner's World, Men's Health, and Prevention). While the Gore app was created with the help of Melcher Media and Push Pop Press, many of the coming apps will be done in-house. Brian Perrin, who was recently named digital product manager at Rodale, is heading the effort to identify the most logical content from the company—whether it be a newly acquired books or old content from one of the company's magazine brands—ripe for enhancements. On May 10 the just-published Foundation: Redefine Your Core, Conquer Back Pain, and Move with Confidence will be released as both a standard e-book ($9.99) and an enhanced e-book ($11.99), with the latter featuring 10 original videos displaying exercises outlined in the book, which is written by celebrity trainers Dr. Eric Goodman and Peter Park. In June, an enhanced e-book edition ($12.99) of the e-original The Six-Pack Secret (culled from the editorial of Men's Health) will go on sale, and it will feature video demos of 29 exercises. And catering to the new color options of e-readers like the NookColor as well as tablets, Rodale will be doing titles like the e-original 101 Best Recipes from the Biggest Loser, set for a June release.
"Our core categories lend themselves to these emerging digital platforms," Rinaldi said. She thinks that Rodale, as a media company with experience working in multiple formats—print books, magazines, and Web sites—is positioned to create digital content effectively and inexpensively. Noting that money can be saved in the production process when you know a title will exist in print and digital formats, Rinaldi said sometimes it comes down to things as simple as saying there will not be any line rules across a page to save money. "We're trying to get ahead of the curve to conceive something that will look good in all formats," Rinaldi said, adding that since Rodale also has facilities that not all publishers have, like test kitchens and places to shoot video, the company can do more production work in-house.
Rinaldi realizes there is a need to be cautious as well. While Rodale has 50 titles in the works for digital treatment of some sort this year, the key is still about making smart calls about what content makes the most sense in what format. In certain cases, Rinaldi and Perrin think video adds to the reading experience. In a case like Foundation, she believes there may be some customers who buy both the hardcover and the enhanced version. In other cases, the enhancements may simply be about taking advantage of the color capabilities that these devices now have. Still, Rinaldi said, this is less about reinventing the wheel than adding another spoke. "This is just another way of distributing our content. This isn't about the end of legacy publishing."