Yesterday Penguin Group ceo John Makinson presented more of the company’s vision of how to present books on the iPad platform at conference. There vision is that they “will be embedding streaming audio, video and gaming into everything that we do.” Which means they are forsaking epub, which “is designed for narrative text but not this cool stuff that we’re talking about now” and “for the time being at least we’ll be creating a lot of our content as applications.”
Makinson freely admitted that “we don’t understand at the moment what the consumer is prepared to pay for. We don’t know whether the inclusion of a video introduction by an author will be of value to the consumer, and it may not be the same answer every time.” He added, “we’ll only find answers to these questions by trial and error.” The point is, “we’ll have to be innovative and take some risks. We’ll have to, above all, listen to our readers to understand what they want, and what they’ll pay for.”
Makinson show a demo video of some of the projects they are working on as well. Paid Content UK declared “many of Penguin’s iPad books seem hardly to resemble ‘books’ at all, but rather very interactive learning experiences.” Indeed, while it’s a highly subjective judgment based on short clips, I found most of the samples hauntingly reminiscent of earlier, unsuccessful efforts by publishers to compete in the software and cd-Rom businesses. Are there adaptations of Spot and board books really going to compete in the world of young child and early education/entertainment apps? Can DK, which has taken many shots at this before, outdo education publishers with their Human Body and other projects? Their DK Paris guidebook boasts a gps map when you lay it flat (like my free Google Maps app?) and their Starfinder, which shows you constellations in the sky and names them, is “a pretty cool idea,” as Makinson said–just like the $2.99 Star Walk app from Vito Technology my son has.