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Push Pop Press, architects of the digital and interactive version of Al Gore’s book Our Choice, are an enigma. Caught between roles of playing developers, publishers and licensors, the ex-Apple super-team pose a model for how enhanced e-books could begin to take center stage. In fact, e-books have already surpassed the amount of available games in the Apple store, boasting 26,976 e-books over 25,330 games1.
The success of the Our Choice App had much playing to its favor. It was already a successful in print and it compartmentalized the development of the digital edition—three groups needing to come together. Push Pop Press was the platformer, Al Gore was the writer and Melcher Media was content creator. In essence, they formed a production team much like one that would be involved in the making of movies and video games.
Why this works: As Howard Libov put it during the Hot Topics earlier this year, “Nobody is great at everything.” These multimedia, transmedia, mega-enhanced e-books require a lot of diverse minds. Strong platformers, passionate writers and creative media teams put Our Choice together, not a single man.
This kind of collaboration takes a lot of organization and a shared vision worthy of a Vulcan Mind Meld. Unfortunately, it also costs a lot of money to develop a project that demands high-quality multimedia content. Deus Ex: Human Revolutions is an upcoming video game title that is rumored to have a $200 million dollar budget. They will sell each copy for $50-$100 to make a profit. In the e-book market, people still aren’t interested in paying even $15 to $25 for an enhanced e-book, no matter how many whistles and bells it comes with.
The best business strategies we’ve seen are publishers enhancing already successful print books (Our Choice), or releasing Apps in junction with content providers such as the Starz adaptation of The Pillars of the Earth, or the character companion app for Game of Thrones. Another award-winning company called Padworx Digital Media found a niche in taking Tim Burton-worthy fictions and creating iPad apps with a more interactive and artistic flare—enhancing popular titles such as Alice: Madness Returns and Dracula: the Official Stoker Family Edition.
The pieces seem to fall seamlessly together, as opposed to the e-book being preconceived as some decked-out transmedia experience. The fact of the matter is, there is no incentive for publishers to create original enhanced e-books—the most successful projects derive from tried stories that have already stood on their own.
Video games and films take many years to complete, and this kind of project doesn’t fit into a publisher’s business model, where the companies such as the big 6 put out thousands of books every year. Also, their in-house writers aren’t thinking about how to make their works brilliant transmedia experiences. So who’s left to put all the pieces together?
I am not sure that there is a market for Push Pop Press’s iPad publishing platform. Medium-sized production teams may be able to pull it off, but not if the platform license costs an insane amount to use. After all is said and done, I’m not so sure that many original enhanced e-books will be coming out in the near future.
However, there still may be some interesting ways to bolster the new art form with the aid of ingenious monetization strategies. My thoughts on this, coming soon.