Publishers take note: native app development is the ebook’s next frontier

As digital books continue to gain a foothold with millions of consumers, and as the technologies and devices associated with ebooks continue to advance in ubiquity and complexity, so too are the books they transmit. In time, ebook publication will look more akin to native app development for publishers, and the ebooks they produce will be less about text on a page and more about memorable and impactful native application experiences.

The future of ebooks is less about text on a page, and more about interactive native application experiences.

Over the years, the growth and evolution of ebooks has mirrored that of their spiritual namesake, email. Email started as an analogue for letter writing: a dead-simple way to send text messages between computers over a network. As that network grew and as computers’ capabilities expanded, email evolved into a multilayered and ubiquitous form of communication. Features like multimedia attachments, real-time messaging, and marketing automation software all became reality on top of this letter-writing legacy.

Ebooks, too, are evolving—text on a display isn’t enough. Static documents are useful to a degree, but expectations around how information is conveyed through a digital medium are changing. Users are beginning to expect and embrace native application experiences that convey new information just as traditional books did, and publishers need to investigate native application development to meet this demand. Whereas ebooks addressed the needs of a generation enamored of paperback books, native application development will be necessary to reach more mobile-native audiences.

Readers want the same information, but the mediums they prefer are shifting. Whereas ebooks matched traditional books, native applications will be necessary to reach more mobile-native audiences.

Apple led this charge with iBooks Author, a Mac application which in 2010 began allowing authors or publishers to inject native videos, interactive quizzes, or even snippets of HTML into iBooks-formatted documents. These iBooks-specific native experiences ran within the iBooks application on iPads, and felt and behaved more like native applications than the ePub-formatted books alongside them on iBooks’s skeuomorphic bookshelf.

Audiences demand new ways to engage with the information they crave. What constitutes an “ebook” is changing as a result. Interactive native app development for iOS and Android offers an avenue to convey information just as books traditionally did, but in modern, interactive, and more engaging ways. Modern readers are seeking ways to read on their own terms—native application development for publishers might be the best option.