Electric reading: a multitude of options

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Digital literary journal Electric Literature has launched a set of tools called Electric Publisher that help publishers and authors create iPhone and iPad apps for their content. I'm generally not a fan of the single-publication apps that seem to be all the rage (I'd rather pipe stuff through my regular reading routine) but the Electric Lit folks do make a few good points about why publishers would go this way instead of producing content for mainstream e-book stores or the web:

If you sell someone an eBook, that's the end of the transaction. If, instead, a reader downloads your app, you begin a lasting connection to them. An app lets you communicate, build community, and offer free and paid content to your readers. It's a whole new paradigm for publishers.

You can see the obvious benefits for a lit journal or an individual author builiding a fan base. Downloading a single-publicaton app is like subscribing to a magazine or book catalog, a second-level of engagement by the readers most likely to buy more copies and recommend them to their friends. The smart thing Electric Literature does is not hitch their wagon to one technology--you can download their apps, or you can also buy individual issues for the Kindle, ePub, PDF, etc. All publishers would be wise to give their readers that kind of choice. What these Electric Publisher tools do is make it easier to build one of the more complicated pieces of the puzzle.