Is a DIY Program or Full-Service App Developer Right for You?
SEPTEMBER 24, 2012
By Larry Dobrow
In the ever-evolving landscape that is self-publishing, photo e-books and iPad apps remain largely a do-it-yourself proposition. While several companies offer e-book and iPad app design and development, they vary wildly in competence and experience. Similarly, though DIY services keep costs low, less technically inclined users might have trouble navigating in and around the “easy” interfaces.
Wind River Creative
Workflow proceeds with relative ease. First, the photographer uploads images to Wind River’s Web interface, which extracts the necessary data and tags. Then, users who wish to add Web links can do so before Wind River generates what Smith calls a “test version” of the e-book or iPad app. Assuming the user gives this version a thumbs-up, all that’s left to do is add a cover page image or graphic. Then Wind River submits it to Apple’s app store, inputting the information required under Apple’s guidelines (description, sample images, etc.).
As for the aforementioned customer service, Wind River isn’t a multinational conglomerate. Rather, its small team works fast and solicits user feedback at every stage in the design and production process. While Wind River’s design and experience experts don’t come cheap—pricing is set at $2,500 for an iPad app, and the programming costs that come with customizable options run $200 per hour—the company provides bang for the buck. “You are not placed in a queue where you wait to be contacted,” Smith says. He acknowledges that cost could prove an issue for some people: “Authors are generally not well funded themselves.”
But based on its current offering and other features likely to be added in months ahead—new graphics and a streamlined interface, among others—Wind River may be the best deal out there. Look for the company to add iBooks Author tools (see below) to its kit, which would allow Wind River to give users the choice between its current app or an iBooks Author interface with customized widgets.
Price: $2,500 for the iPad app; programming customizable options is $200 per hour
The good news is that Wix operates on a so-called “freemium” basis, allowing users to build a site from scratch or employ any of hundreds of pre-set templates (these templates, in turn, are customizable). The slightly-less-than-good news is that to take full advantage of the Wix platform—to optimize the site for the iPad and other tablets, to link the site to a specific domain name, to add e-commerce functions, etc.—users have to pay for Premium upgrades. They’re not costly, especially compared to what one would pay a tablet, Web or e-book designer, but they’re important for users hoping to take full advantage of what the Wix platform has to offer.
Price: Free; Premium plans start at $4.95 per month
Apple iBooks Author
For the iPad, users can create what Apple calls “Multi-Touch” e-books, rich with video, three-dimensional objects and interactive diagrams. Tables, charts, images and text are added with an easy click-and-drag, while slightly more complicated graphic (shadows, reflections) and audio-visual (animation, voiceovers) flourishes are simple to add for any photographer with even a passing knowledge of the Apple way.
That, actually, is the one drawback cited by photographers who aren’t sold on iBooks Author: Generally, it’s the Apple way or the highway. For non-Mac-users, the process can get slightly wonky and frustrating. That said, the way Apple generates quick iPad previews of unfinished books and automates the sales/submission processes is a little miracle of convenience.
The Baker framework comes with a catch or two. Casali himself admits that “the workflow isn’t exactly simple—but neither are other solutions out there.” The task of book building requires some basic knowledge of HTML5, and publishing an e-book requires users to jump through the usual App Store hoops. That said, for those with the technical knowledge, the open-source nature of the platform gives users nearly unlimited control over their creations.
Up next: further tweaking the framework to make it easier for non-technophiles to use. “In the end, we’d love to reach a point where the current ecosystem and community can be even bigger, and provide a service for both amateurs and professionals,” Casali says.
Related Articles:Anatomy of an iPad App: A Photo Book and Memoir as App
Anatomy of an iPad App: An App as a Living Document
Anatomy of an iPad App: A Photo Archive That’s Also an App
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