Tired of lugging around paperbacks, but don’t feel like dropping the extra change for a standalone e-book reader when you already own an iPhone? ScrollMotion has announced that they’ve partnered with Random House, Simon & Schuster, Houghton Mifflin, Penguin Group USA and Hachette to begin selling e-books repackaged as iPhone applications, or “books-as-apps”.
Serving as the core of all of these app-books is ScrollMotion’s Iceberg Reader, which they promise provides a “natural book-like reading experience”, with pagination, cover art, adjustable text size, and margin notes. To turn the page, readers swipe across the image as they would to jump between pictures in the on-device Photo app. Each book is self-contained, with both the reading application and the book itself built-in.
ScrollMotion certainly isn’t the first to take such an approach – in fact, Apple’s got an entire section [iTunes link] dedicated to this type of thing, already containing over 600 books. It is, however, the most significant publishing partnership we’ve heard of thus far, as each of the publishing houses involved has a solid library of popular content. As examples, ScrollMotion came out swinging with Random House’s The Golden Compass [iTunes Link] and Hachette’s Twilight [iTunes Link], both of which would be considered best sellers by anyone’s count.
For heavy ebook readers, the prices may be a bit steep. For the 11 Iceberg Reader powered books I could find in the app store, the prices fell between $12 and $28, with each book coming in at 30-40% more than what their respective “Kindle edition” goes for on Amazon. The Golden Compass is $11.99 through ScrollMotion, while it’s $7.50 for the Kindle. Twilight is $10.99, or $6.04 for Amazon’s reader. While that’s not enough to justify the purchase of a Kindle for most (especially at today’s post-Oprah prices), the difference starts to accrue pretty quick for avid readers.
As a side note, I’m a bit surprised that Apple has yet to incorporate a first-party eBook solution into the iPhone, beyond the clunky PDF-via-email method already in place. With the current books-as-apps solution, every development house has their own book reader, each with entirely different UIs and functionality. As anyone who has read through Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines could probably tell you, that sort of goes against their normal practices. Why not throw in a standard reader, and let publishing houses peddle their goods to the consumer as musicians and application developers can?