Enhanced Ebooks are Taking to the Clouds

For our upcoming title, Mastersounds: A Portrait of Jazz in the Pacific Northwest, featuring pictures and interviews with luminaries of the Northwest jazz scene, Ooligan Press was curious if we could do an interactive ebook. We imagined audio, videos, and clickable content, with maps and location-based factoids. Because of the high cost of producing interactive ebooks, along with cross-platform compatibility issues, we set our sights on three new companies offering cloud-based enhanced ebook platforms.

First was Inkling, which offers its Habitat software for free. Users choose a template, build their content, and upload it to the company’s cloud-based service. Once there, the content can be accessed online from any browser, through Inkling’s Axis mobile device app, or integrated into the user’s own website or branded reading app using Inkling’s Latitude software. While Inkling offers free templates, there is a monthly fee, on top of which it charges extra for custom templates, staff training, and integrating user systems with their own. It should be noted that Inkling is the preferred ebook publishing choice of both Pearson and McGraw-Hill.

Next up we looked at Creatavist. Like Inkling, the software is free and users are responsible for transferring and enhancing their own material. The users’ material is then accessible on the company’s website and available through its app. However, at the premium Pro service level, Creatavist offers users the ability to create their own custom reading app for distributing content (which may be subject to further App store distribution fees). Creatavist also autogenerates unenhanced ebooks to be sold in the Barnes & Noble, iBook, and Kindle marketplaces (where they are subject to royalty fees of 30 to 70 percent).

Lastly we looked at Kotobee, from Cairo, Egypt. Like the other two platforms, Kotobee offers its software free, and users enhance and upload their own content. And, like Inkling, it offers free templates, but charges for custom work. Kotobee ebooks can be read on its Kotobee Reader software, online, or the entire book can be converted to an iOS app––at $75 for each conversion, with an additional $80 fee for users without their own Apple developer accounts. However, their highest tier package does include 400 Android app conversions at no additional cost.

All of these platforms are extremely capable of distributing high-quality enhanced ebooks with easy-to-use software and extensive support, but each comes with a hefty price tag––something that makes integration with small publishers like us an issue. Inkling doesn’t list its service prices, but a short phone call to one of its representatives elicited a per-month quote in the four digits, making Kotobee and Creatavist the bargain deals here, at $2,750 per year and $250 per month, respectively. Still, bargain or not, after printing, marketing, and distribution costs for standard print books has been applied, these kinds of additions aren’t exactly feasible for small publishers. However, a change in ebook distribution is clearly on the horizon, and it likely won’t be long before we all find our heads in the clouds.

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