AppBrick Is Out to Add Life To “Flat” E-Books with an Interactive Layer
Vijay Gaur sees the book going in the same direction that the mobile phone has.
“We are converting a book into a platform,” says Gaur. “Your phone is becoming more powerful by applications. We are now applying that same concept to books.”
That’s the idea behind his Medford, MA-based startup, AppBrick. The company, which graduated this past August from the New York edition of the startup accelerator DreamIt Ventures, hope to put a layer of interactive applications on top of e-books, from novels to textbooks to children’s stories.
Publishers upload their e-books into the AppBrick platform for the iPad, select which apps they want to add on top of it, and push go. It all ties into AppBrick’s original mission of giving businesses “a very simple easy to use tool to launch applications very fast and manage content through a Web based dashboard,” Gaur says.
Though books have evolved to hit digital readers, overall they remain very “flat,” and publishers are looking for a way to better capture their audiences, says Gaur. One set of AppBrick applications enables readers to share sections of the book via channels like Twitter, e-mail, or Facebook, as well as connect with authors via those social media channels. Readers can do all that without leaving the page they’re reading.
But AppBrick’s platform does far more to enhance the overall book experience, Gaur says. Readers can use a Wiki reference app to look up a term they’re unfamiliar with, connect with tutors via video, or discuss a chapter with other readers via a voice-over IP connection. One app enables users to draw and share notes on a virtual whiteboard. All of these functions appear as pop-up windows over the e-book page readers are already on.
AppBrick’s goal is to offer a platform where other third-party developers can create custom applications. The AppBrick core reader application would be free to users, but they would pay for purchases of additional applications. For example, they would pay tutors for lessons related to textbook content. AppBrick would take a cut of those purchases if the system takes off, Gaur says. It also plans to charge publishers for its service.
Gaur says these functions give publishers and authors analytics and insight about their audience that’s not available through traditional paper and e-books. They can understand what chapters readers are consuming, how they’re discussing it with others, and where they’re plugging in the interactive apps.
AppBrick also offers another set of features that allows users to create interactive storyboards, record their own voice for dialogue, and share those creations. “It publicizes the book and increases the creativity in the kids,” says Gaur. Those features are targeted at children’s books, but can also work with adult texts.
Other companies, like Push Pop Press (acquired by Facebook), have worked to make e-books more interactive and social media-oriented. AppBrick is a much cheaper solution though, because with it, interactive e-books individually don’t need to be coded from the ground up, says Gaur.” “They upload books and apply features,” says Gaur. “The beautiful aspect is we are converting the book into a platform and it keeps on improving regularly.”
AppBrick is testing its platform with a few different publishers and is looking to enlist more, as well as attract users. The company is running on $30,000 that Gaur has put in, as well as $20,000 from DreamIt, but is looking to gain more traction with its reader and publisher communities before going after a bigger funding round, says Gaur.
It’s up to the publishing houses to push their texts through AppBrick so their readers can get their hands on the interactive features. We’ll have to see who bites.