Interactive ebooks and their problems for indie authors.

It seems anyone with a computer is becoming an ebook author. However, the massive explosion of ebook self-publishing authors is about to fizzle out.

The reason the number of self-publishing authors is about to dramatically drop is a growing call for more interactivity within ebooks, especially ebook apps.

Self-publishing authors of today need only a computer and a word processor like Microsoft Word. Interactive publishing demands more than most self-publishing authors are capable of delivering.

Interactive publishing requires three important items; money, skills, and living forever.

1) Money. Some time lots of money. Developing an ebook app costs money. According to David Fox of Electric Eggplant, “The question is, can you really make your money back? If I put in $50,000 or $100,000 into an app – where most of it goes into animation and sound effects – without major characters, can you make your money back? It’s probably more likely that they are not…”

I wonder how many self-publishing authors have even $5,000 to spend on an extremely simple Interactive ebook app or Interactive ebook?

2) Skills. What skills will self-publishing authors need for Interactive ebook apps? Or Interactive ebooks?

For Interactive ebooks apps: graphic design, computer programming skills, writing, editing, and music and sound editing skills are just the very basic skills required to produce a simple Interactive ebook app.

Don’t have those skills? Buy them. Matt Brooke-Smith of Future Workshops says “As well as the technical skills involved in learning Cocoa and Objective-C (the native language of the iPhone that all iTunes Apps are coded in), you need to have an excellent appreciation of design and a good understanding of your target demographic.” He estimates that publisher budgets for an interactive ebook application would be at least $25,000.

Darn it. There’s that money problem again. Okay, can a self-publishing author buy the necessary skills for less?

Todd Bernhard has had some success with his ebook apps on Apple. He says “If your project is small, well-defined, and doesn’t drag on with changes, you should be able to find developers for $1,000. The more responsibilities you can take on yourself, such as designing the graphics and user interface, the more compact and affordable you can make the outsourcing project.”

Just a simple thing like designing the graphic and the user interface can save money. Wow. That’s great news!!

But what if you’re a self-publishing author who doesn’t know that designing the user interface requires computer programming knowledge for every electronic device on which you want your Interactive ebook to function?

How many electronic devices have their own proprietary Operating System that require knowledge of its internal intricacies in order to design a User Interface? Tons. Even Google’s Android system has variations. Sheesh.

Don’t have any computer programming skills and don’t have any friends with those skills with whom you can partner to produce your Interactive ebook? Back to the money problem again, and the $10,000 -$25,000 to publish an Interactive ebook app is looking pretty good now.

What about designing just a simple Interactive ebook instead of an Interactive app?

Okay, but what interactivity do you want in your simple Interactive ebook? Would you want your readers to ‘interact’ with you via some chat thing like Skype, interact with other readers of your ebook through a pop-up forum, have the capability to change your ending and have other readers like or dislike the change, or just about any form of interactivity available now or in the future?

3) Living forever. Once your ebook hits the Internet it can live forever, unlike its author, and produce income long after an author dies. Self-publishing authors must plan for what happens to their works when they are dead.

For one thing, when you’re dead, who’s going to check the links in your ebook to make sure they are still functioning the way they did at first?

I believe that as ebooks and ebook apps evolve and become more interactive you will see a dramatic drop in the number of self-publishing ebook authors, and a dramatic rise in the retail price of ebooks.

Smashwords Forum members can post their comments on this blog post at this link.

But are Interactive ebooks and Interactive apps beneficial to children? That is my next post.

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