The Web vs. Apps for E-books, Which Will Win?

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

By Edward Nawotka, Editor-in-Chief

Do we use the web as a delivery platform for apps and e-book sales into the walled gardens of retail platforms or use the web as a technology platform for direct deployment to readers?

The answer to the question depends on your values. Walled gardens are “Republican,” more conservative; web deployment is more “Democratic.”

You might assume that because of the openness of the web, it’s “inevitable” that in the long run, the web will win. But nothing is inevitable. Walled gardens — or “ivory towers” — require constant updating, new code for every platform adjustment. The web offers the advantage of giving companies a more streamlined experience, allowing companies to roll out a platform to everyone at the same time, and providing a consistent experience. The downside is that the user experience online is still lacking in polish when compared to “native” apps. Will the web catch up? Possibly, but not inevitably.

It’s a very important question with long term implications.

Right now in publishing, so many people are obsessed with devices. Every new “tablet” computer is caressed, reviewed and lauded as the next big thing in “e-reading.” Yet, in its guts, it’s nothing more than a computer, albeit one that is just flat. It’s time to stop obsessing with the gadgets. They are just a distraction (though I will admit, a simple innovation like adding the “glowlight” to the Nook Touch can be really exciting). In the long term, the question of what wins — native apps and ivory towers or the open web — is far more important. It’s much the same as the debate between traditional publishing and self-publishing. Each has its own value system.

Only one thing is certain, what’s happening now is changing the way people read books. And it truly does have serious long term implications for the future.

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.