Monday, January 31, 2011

App creation tools for authors and illustrators...coming soon

When the iPad was released in April of 2010, intriguing book-based apps began appearing with movable elements. As Elizabeth O. Dulemba’s recent post proved, the discussion about interactivity has just begun. Several e is for book members have story apps that have already been released (click on the Our Ebooks tab under the blog header to see several of them.) The coding for those story apps was done by various iPhone/iPad developers.

y creative process is hands-on—I improvise along the way by trying different sizes, positions, and colors for the characters, props, setting, and so on. With so many changes involved, it would drive a developer crazy and they would probably stop answering email/the phone. So if you want to create a book app yourself... what are the options? The page shown is from The Complete Idiot’s Guide to iPad and iPhone App Development. As appealing as endless pages of code may be to some people, it didn’t exactly match up with my current skill set(!)

What I need is a framework to arrange my images, stories, and other media within, and that allows me to add the interactivity that would be appropriate for each book app. We all use word processors now, plus many artists draw and paint with Photoshop, Painter, et al, so why not?

So it was with some excitement last week that members of e is for book discovered three companies working on software for creating interactive book apps. All three of them are currently or soon will be doing beta testing...sign up and you may get chance to try the software before anyone else.

Moglue has a video on their home page that gives a good sense of how their software will work. It’s for the Mac iOS as well as Android devices. Among other options, the coloring feature looks like fun (and not just for kids!) 

The Composer sofware by Demibooks promises a drag and drop interface that allows you to work directly on the iPad itself. Two cute little girls appear in a video to demonstrate a story app made with the software. There also are several blog posts about the making of Astrojammies.

has a system called InteractBuilder that they say is very easy to use. They also have a Facebook page. (Thanks to member June Goulding for that link.)

I wonder how many other companies are working on similar software? It’s hard to say exactly when any of these will be available, but probably within weeks or months. One issue that immediately comes to mind is the price of the software. In other words, will there be a one-time fee and you can make all the apps you like? The only indication I could find was on InteractBooks’ News page, where the headline says Let Us Publish Your Book and underneath is a sentence about “revenue sharing.”

First of all, one of the primary things publishers do is to select what to publish; I doubt that is what is being suggested. Secondly, revenue sharing may mean that the software company will upload the app under their name and give the author/illustrator a share (after deducting Apple’s fee in the case of their App Store). Quite a lot of issues there, such as will there be a right to audit? I wonder if they’ve looked at a typical multi-page book publishing contract lately? If so, they would probably opt for simpler model because it’s very complicated otherwise.

In short, I want a relationship similar to the one I have with Adobe: I pay them up front for their software, and they have zero claim upon my creations. That’s the app-creation business model that I’m looking for... it’s only a matter of time.


  1. Thanks, Loreen. Without having done a lot of research into this, it looks to me like the difference between Mogule and Composer vs. InteractBooks, is that the first two are software programs to create apps and InteractBooks is a "Publisher" looking to create, publish and revenue share. It would be interesting to find out what pricing model Mogule and Composer are going to use. I would also hope it would be a one time shot to buy the software as with Adobe.

  2. This covers so many of the questions I have been pondering. Thanks Loreen, for putting it out there. Maybe some answers will come in comments!

  3. It's not very obvious on InteractBook's site, but they are going to have a beta test of their InteractBuilder, which is the same program they use to make their book apps.

  4. Loreen Great info- Though this is all a bit overwhelming. The learning curve is huge for me. Making time to learn all this and trying to make a living is a balance, that is why, I for one, don't mind hiring long as the fees and cuts aren't over the top. All these links are worth keeping handy. Would it be possible to include them in "indie links tab"- including the Scrivener link?

  5. Good idea, Maryann, it's done.

  6. Just heard from Moglue, they say their beta testing starts next week, so sign up if you’re adventurous! : )

  7. Loreen, THANK YOU for this. I feel like the characters in the old Crosby, Stills and Nash song, Wooden Ships. Nice to know you're out there!

  8. This is great information -- especially when you feel like you don't know where to start with creating an "app." Thank you!

  9. I am very interested in this topic. I agree that the software can be bought and that after that the revenue would be yours. I will be watching closely for that as well. Thanks for such a great post!

  10. Just ran across an article with a slideshow of a presentation given at Digital Book World by Liza Daly. It's about creating interactive books using EPUB3 (the basis for iBooks and similar formats.) It starts with a hilarious look at how different ereaders have their own formats, mostly incompatible with any other...the current dreadful state of affairs. She proposes a number of solutions and shows an interactive book demo for iBooks (not an app): EPUB3 for interactive books

  11. Great information! Thanks for posting!

  12. A few more links I ran into tonight (along with your site) on publishers.

    Pubbsoft and their contract .pdf here

    And another:

    I'm curious to see what you come up with. There are some public domain books I wanted to make into illustrated books for my kids and I was considering publishing them as well. I'm trying to decide how crazy I want to get with this. My husband is a software architect and has agreed to help me if I can get the information he needs.