• Romanian app developer Alexandru Brie has already produced several bestselling book apps and now intends to bring standalone iPhone/iPad apps to the masses via his TouchBookReader platform.
• He promises a platform that allows “anyone, regardless of their programming skills, to turn their HTML content into a customizable self-contained e-book app.”
By Edward Nawotka
BUCHAREST: iPhone/iPad e-book frenzy is without a doubt a global phenomenon. Romanian app developer and Web programmer Alexandru Brie has been working behind the scenes to help American, Japanese and other writers bring their books to the iPhone and iPad. He’s developed a platform -– the TouchBooksReader -– which allows “anyone, regardless of their programming skills, to turn their HTML content into a customizable self-contained e-book app.”
The French-trained programmer got involved in the book world in August 2008 after stints creating software for banks and real estate companies. His first literary projects involved publishing standalonealone apps from public domain works, such as The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald and The Qur’an. His bestselling work so far has been Self Help Classics, which brings together some 25 classics of the genre, from Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill to The Art of Public Speaking by Dale Carnegie and Joseph Berg Esenwein. (The original iPhone edition appeared in September 09, with the iPad version following this April). Brie has also done collections of political works and Asian philosophy.
“Gradually my work got me into the attention of various writers who asked for my help to bring their books on the iPhone,” says Brie. “Since this wasn’t my main focus, I did it only for a handful of people, including David Carnoy [author of Knife Music], and only for free apps, as I didn’t want to get involved into accounting issues and revenue sharing. They paid me to create their apps based on their HTML content and distribute them for free from my account on the AppStore.”
Brie is currently at work on a redesign of TouchBooksReader to make it easier for authors to design their own apps: “The process, although still a bit complex — one would have to compile the e-book apps using Apple’s SDK on a Mac computer and upload it to iTunes using their developer account -– has some significant advantages,” he says. “For starters, the authors wouldn’t have to write a single line of ObjectiveC code, the content is based on CSS and HTML, which allows one to easily customize the appearance; they can manage their app just like any other iPhone developer does and sell it at whatever price they chose, and they’d only pay me a one time per-app license.” (Currently priced at $500 per use.)
He adds: “Essentially people get access to the same resources and static library –- no source code, obviously -– that I’m using for my own e-book apps and be able to greatly customize most things about their app. It is primarily targeted towards publishers, but should also appeal to self-publishing authors who want to create a standalone iPhone and iPad app and get taste the AppStore experience.”
Currently, the platform is in its first alpha tests, but Brie reports there’s growing international interest in a platform that puts the power of app development directly into author’s hands. “I’m already negotiation with several publishers in Japan, where I’m represented by the Overtex Group Japan,” he says. “There has been one app published so far, with three more coming this month and several dozen in the next few months.”
For his part, author David Carnoy — an executive editor at CNET.com and no neophyte in the world of computing — notes that he was pleasantly surprised to find someone to help publish an app of his book in far away Romania. “Working with Alex was a remarkably smooth process, partly because he speaks and writes English so well. I’d ask him what he needed from me, then email him graphics and text files, and in a relatively short time we had this working app up in the store, which for some reason just feels more exciting than having your standard e-book up in the Kindle Store or Nook store. There’s something about showing off that little icon on your iPhone or iPad that seems cool. And that you worked with a developer halfway across the world to create it really is a testament to how technology has become this kind of global language.”