What is an Interactive Story App?
In a previous piece, “What’s next after self-publishing a children’s book?”, I established the context for reusing the content of a print book for other products. In other words, what products could we create from the same illustrations and script of a print storybook to generate more sales and return on our investments? I narrowed down to the option of an Interactive Story App owing to my experience.
In this piece, I make no assumption of your knowledge of Apps as I explain what an Interactive Story App is from the perspective of what a self-published author should know to consider it an option in his or her product pipeline.
What exactly is an App?
An App (application) is a piece of software that runs on electronic devices especially phones and tablets. Though Apps have become synonymous with phones and tablets, they are also used on PCs, smart devices like TVs, wrist watches to mention a few.
It is not uncommon to have an App that works across multiple platforms, hence we could have any or all of the following:
- Mobile App — an app that runs on mobile phones or tablets and may not require active internet connection to work. Examples include just about any app on your phone — clock, to-do list, calculator etc.
- Web App — an app that is accessible via web browsers and requires active internet connection. An example is Grammarly.
- TV App — an app that is accessible via Smart TVs. Examples include Netflix, YouTube, Spotify apps.
Henceforth in this piece, the words App and Interactive Story App are used interchangeably to refer to the same thing.
What is an Interactive Story App?
An Interactive Story App is essentially an app! The prefix ‘Interactive Story’ is simply an attribute to differentiate it from other App genres. An Interactive Story App usually combines features as voice narratives, sound effects, mini activities such as games to tell a story, making it more engaging than a typical print book could ever be. Examples include Storytime from CBeebies and Adventures of the Tortoise app I created a few years ago.
What makes a story app interactive?
The interactive elements of a storybook app could be a combination of activities/games, multiple reading options (read-to-me, auto-read, read myself), ability to record one’s voice, highlighted texts, gestures such as shaking, swiping, animations all of which make the story come alive.
What is the difference between an Android and iOS App?
An Operating System (OS) is the underlying software on a device which other software run on. For PCs, the most popular operating systems are Windows, Mac and Linux. Mobile apps also run on different operating systems of which Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS are the most popular today. Thus, an Android app is a version of an app that works on Android phones or tablets while an iOS app is one that works on Apple phones and the iPads. Devices like Amazon Kindle fire tablet also run on Android so Android apps work on them.
Where can my Interactive Story App be sold or downloaded?
Distribution is a wide and interesting topic. The 2 major distribution channels that exist for Apps are Apple App Store and Google Play going by the popularity of their parent brands.
With respect to the Android OS, because it is open-source meaning, anyone can pick up the software and tweak it to their purpose, many branded platforms run on it, thus making it possible to distribute your app outside Google Play. It’s a bit complicated for Apple because its OS is not open-source. However, there are other distribution channels within those stores and beyond as explained below.
Aggregator Apps — Within the app stores, we have apps that include a library of similar content. Their library consists of interactive story books sourced from different publishers. That way, users have a single app to access multiple content usually for a subscription fee. An example is Hopster.
Hardware manufacturers such as Samsung also have their own app stores. Many of these run on the Android operating system.
Telecoms Servicing Companies — these offer content as bundles to end users which are usually paid for via their data.
Private — You could also chose to distribute your app yourself. You could share the installation file (Android’s is called an APK) via bluetooth, file share etc. and a user could directly install it.
Others — There are also organizations that buy apps in bundle for educational purposes. Some may go through the App Stores, any of the options above including directly through a publisher.
A developer should chose to publish his or her interactive story app on Google or Apple Store at the very least as they guarantee global distribution.
How does anyone make money from Apps?
Apps provide different means of making money as explained below:
- Direct Purchase whereby an app is only accessible when it’s paid for.
- In-App Purchase is a model that allows you sell content within the app. Here, some of the content may be made free for example, a few pages of your story scenes may be freely accessible. The reader could then opt to pay to access the entire content for a one-off fee. This is a popular model as it gives readers a chance to assess the app before making a commitment to buy.
- Subscription is a popular one these days as it provides recurring revenues for the publisher. However, it works best when a publisher has a content library that it regularly updates with new features.
- Licensing. Here, your app usually Android is licensed for a fixed annual fee that is paid monthly regardless of how the app fares to its end users. This is one that I’ve personally used to drive sustainable recurrent income. It works best with aggregators and Telecoms Servicing Companies.
What does it take to develop an App? Costs, expertise…
This is a question I’m often asked. My answer is that it depends on the scope of the project. What that means is, how interactive is the publisher looking to make his or her book? Making a story come alive may require tweaking existing illustrated assets as well as creating some new ones. The scope of that task is what builds up the time taken alongside that required for programming, testing and publishing.
Should you develop both Android or iOS Apps?
The answer is a resounding YES. Both platforms have a huge user base and should be considered for your Interactive Story App.
Will one app work on Android or iOS?
Kind of. While both platforms are different, it’s simply a matter of how the app is built. Using software like Unity3d, you could develop an Interactive Story App and publish it to run on a host of platforms including Android, iOS and even consoles.
In subsequent write-ups, I’ll drill down some of the topics mentioned above as it’s easier to explain them using practical contexts. Feel free to share anything I may have missed out or anything you’d like me to clarify.