Increasingly students are turning to apps as a way of enhancing learning, and there is a bewildering variety of language learning apps out there, ranging from complete self-study courses to exam prep and supplementary materials. Some are “native “ apps – i.e. they will work on your mobile device even if you are not connected to the internet, a big advantage IMHO. Others are “web apps”, which require internet connectivity – which can prove a problem if you want to bone up on your grammar while 35,000 feet over the Atlantic. Readers are an obvious ebook-style app for a publisher to launch, being fairly simple. They can be based on existing assets, including audio.
The problem is that those publishers, such as OUP, who have launched ebook / app readers have approached the business model as they might approach selling books. Rather than come up with an approach which suits the business paradigm of the medium, they’re flogging reader apps as if they were hard copies on shelves – and few learners are going to fork out much the same price for an app as they are for a “real” book. Apps and ebooks call for a very different marketing and sales approach.
Consultant Caroline Moore, who runs an interesting new development company called Learn Ahead, has an article in the Guardian this week which should be required reading for any publisher interested in the app / ebook field (and, let’s face it, that should be all of them!)
LearnAhead, by the way, has just published its own app, Word Carrot – a highly entertaining ELT vocabulary game which is free from the app store and getting good reviews. Well worth checking out.