These statements probably sound familiar:
“I need to digitize my entire backlist! I’m converting everything to ePub. Find that book from 1973, cut the spine, scan it…”
“I’ll only make apps—no ePub for my books. Apps, apps, apps: I love apps.”
I hate both of these statements. They lead publishers who maybe aren’t so tech-savvy to believe that it has to be one or the other, or, even worse, that they have to digitize their books no matter what. But, why ?
Why do you need to convert your backlist?
Will the cost of the conversion process be made up in sales? I love experimenting, but that doesn’t mean you have to convert every title right away. Maybe it’s better forget about the backlist and start producing digital versions as you go forward and see how it goes (that also makes it free (or almost free) experimentation).
Why does it need to be an app?
Can you do something in that format that will make your book better that you can’t do in ePub? Do you have enough of a reach to get that app out to readers? If yes, then awesome. Otherwise, why? Personally, I’m not buying a book in app form. Something that turns people into unicorns for $0.99, though? Sold!
What should we do instead?
What I’m really getting at here is that we need to step out of the digital publishing whirlwind every once in a while and take a serious look at what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. The question should always be: what is best for this book in this market at this time? And we should always (always!) treat the digital version of a text as its own version, separate from the print version, and not as an afterthought. Maybe an app is the best option, maybe its ePub, maybe you don’t need a digital version at all—but those decisions should be made on a title-by-title basis.