Thoughts and Reflection on PrintShop pt.II

Hello Demibooks,

In my opinion you have created the absolute best iPad application in existence.
You have made an app that allows the aspiring author to create interactive books in an intuitive way. You deserve to be financially rewarded for your exhaustive efforts and then some. You are poised to steal the entire interactive publishing and design market clean away from Adobe.

Unfortunately, your current Printshop model is absolutely 100% the wrong way.

Previously I had written a highly detailed message on this forum regarding the Demibooks Composer app and the Printshop. This can be seen here:

http://getsatisfaction.com/demibooks/...

I was absolutely thrilled by the positive responses to my message by fellow board members and the incredibly nice employee, Chris.

Upon reading the recent thread on the plans for the new PrintShop model, I was completely gutted. The exact opposite of what I proposed for the Printshop publishing options to the Demibooks community was implemented. Funnily enough, I mentioned tiered pricing for people whom needed more help publishing. This part was implemented as seen in the latests Printshop FAQ (v1.0) but Demibooks did not actually listen to my main argument which was;

"Please don't limit this to a system where the user must always go through the PrintShop in order to publish. If the Demibooks Composer app needs to be $999.99 for this to be done. Then so be it."

Demibooks Composer needs direct native iPad .ipa format export ability. At present the Composer exports to DCB, I believe (though I might be wrong if so then I apologize) that this was put in place as groundwork to create a Printshop model where the user pays Demibooks a fee to finalize and publish their application.

By solely changing this to .ipa file export like Adobe Flash allows; you now have not only the most user friendly digital content creation app, but also the best iPad app publishing system that exists.

If this is impossible due to software/hardware constraints, just make a basic tutorial outlining the workflow needed to reach .ipa format from DCB.

You can still have a way of generating revenue in addition to just selling your application for $999.99 each. Make the Printshop be a personalized service in helping users create the content that they have imagined or sketched. Printshop would be a customized support service. Imagine being able to interact with new customers that need help bringing their book to life on a page by page ala carte pricing for starters. You could do this via email, messenger, Skype etc. Demibooks could actually be the ones helping to make dreams come true. Instead of making an incredible app then being the gatekeeper to actually publish what someone has made.

With only a few additions to your application (video/audio player, snap to grid). People could use Demibooks Composer as a direct replacement and more interactive answer to Adobe's Indesign for magazine publication. People would also pay you to help them make digital magazines, customize interactive resumes, school lessons, etc. etc. etc. Your revenue will not stop to a halt just because you let your customers actually self publish. A few posters mentioned liking the idea of opening one's own publishing one stop bookshelf. Charge separately for this upgrade for additional revenue.

You need to put the creative power into the hands of the user, not give them a taste then act as a middle man. I know those are not your intentions but this is the effect. This will allow users to not only feel more at ease about spending time and money on your program, but they will also be able to experiment more and see what works for them. Instead of more or less betting the farm, hoping that their book sells. Waiting to re-coup the money. Then hopefully making enough money to be able to finance their next book again through Demibooks.

Think about it this way, would any of the current Ipad music apps even stand a chance at selling if you had to send files back and forth to a MusicShop just to have a .mp3 made of your own song so it could be uploaded onto iTunes? We could take this a step further and would Photoshop be so widely used if Adobe made you pay for each time you created a .psd .pdf altered a .jpg etc.

Right now, you are the only developer as far as easy to use interactive book design, so you can entertain this idea. This will not last. Demibooks is in the fortunate position of being the very first company to offer an intuitive way to create books in this emerging market. Do you want to completely own this market from it's beginnings and let that momentum keep going into all of the other items suited for digital publishing (digital magazines, school lessons, resumes, etc)? Then give your customers freedom. You are the very first company that I have seen to be in the unique position to completely blindside Adobe and win the entire interactive publishing market. Don't squander this opportunity by maintaining a system that calls for re-investment every time someone wants to create new content. This is absolutely not what your customers want.

I truly appreciate all of the incredible work that everyone at Demibooks has put into this wonderful app.

Thank you very much for your time.
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  • Although I too think Demibooks is a wonderful app (or at least in the process of becoming one) I have a hard time believing that they will change their revenue model in the way you are describing.

    - If the app was 999 dollars, way fewer people would even try it.
    - As it stands now, the model enables people to construct their book for free, but then they really need to think hard before they press the publish button. 500 dollars is a high price, but not astronomical. The fact that what you want to publish costs money will increase the quality of the books produced with Demibooks. This in turn will drive people to the platform.
    - If you could produce unlimited book apps for free with Demibooks, the app store would flood with crap books. I could put together a book in an hour using Demibooks. It would be a bad book, but I could do it. As publishing the books costs money, I instead spend weeks building my book. If I didn't think it would be worth 500 dollars to see it published, I would not publish it.
    - A deluge of poorly written and constructed books would slow the Apple approval process to a standstill in no time flat. I have no illusions Apple would not squash any app that resulted in this underfoot. They have that prerogative, you know.

    If I were a shareholder of Demibooks, I would congratulate them on finding a brilliant business model. And while it's true that making publishing free would amount to a revolution, not all aspects of a revolution are good.
    • Hi Klas,

      Thank you for your reply. Here are my responses to your messages.

      -I agree that a $999 app would have less of an audience. That is why a non-export version should be made available for free. This was mentioned on my first post at: http://getsatisfaction.com/demibooks/...

      Also the target market most people will be developing an app for the first time and will opt for Demibooks to do the compiling for $699. That's not far away from the proposed max price for Applications on the Apple Store. Not too mention if you want to update your book, then you must pay additional hourly fees. This is not conducive to the aspiring author in any manner. Like you said people will have to think hard before going to publish with the current PrintShop model. You simply do not want to make software that requires people to think long and hard before investing. You want as many people as humanly possible to use your product and create. This will translate into happier customers doing free advertising for Demibooks and driving them to the platform. Everyone wins.

      -The fact that charging to publish is not what would attract people. Are you attracted to the idea of a pay per model for .mp3, .jpg, .ai, .rtf, etc. ? Why should .ipa be different?

      -Tens of thousands of people make "crap" games, calculators, and joke apps. This does not mean that suddenly Xcode has a bad name. People just created poor content. The programming software is not at fault.

      -There are already thousands of apps submitted every week. A deluge of poorly written apps already exists. Demibooks will not change this. At present Demibooks makes no guarantee to the customer that there app will indeed be published. So Apple still has the same prerogative whether or not Demibooks is an open platform.

      -Demibooks to my knowledge does not have stock therefore shareholders do not exist. However, they do have investors. If you haven't noticed the entire explosion of apps being created for iPhone and iPad is a direct result of a low cost solution to gain entrance into this market. If Apple chose to have people repeatedly pay hundreds in order to publish an app, the market would not have exploded with indie programmers. Demibooks exists to give independent authors and illustrators a chance to create interactive books. The higher the cost of entry, the less people will be able to use their software. At present Demibooks is too much of a restrictive gamble for publishing and has a somewhat awkward approach to finalized compiling. Many people would also be reluctant to give out iOS developer account details as well. I know the good Demibooks people would never compromise an account however, this is just another barrier in their current business model.
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  • Dan (Official Rep) November 11, 2011 12:35
    Hello blackshadow

    It is impossible to make an ipa file on the iPad so that it can be submitted to Apple.

    We did hear you, we have spent many an hour talking about these kind of things but alas things take time to make.... Printshop FAQ (v1.0)

    Thank you for your solid and well though out and passionate view, and I hope we have some good news for you soon.

    Dan
    • Hi Dan,

      Than you so much for your hard work and nice reply. I realize that your company is in it's infancy and will grow. I'm very thankful for the awesomeness that you and everyone at Demibooks has done.

      Thank you for the note on ipa export. I was thinking that possibly a way to help streamline the process for compiling to be the most user friendly as possible would be a companion application on OSX/Windows to convert DCB to ipa.

      Perhaps this is where Demibooks could charge in addition to and/or instead of the current PrintShop model? I know that some people have asked for a full on Demibooks Composer application for OSX/Windows. However, I felt that this would lose the feel of the applications and kind of go against the spirit of iPad content creation.

      Maybe if you just kept the very last step in compiling would be a way to prevent having Demibooks to re-invest time to reprogram everything for another operating system, but also give customers the freedom that they desire. To be able to publish at one's own will. But at a cost of course.
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  • While having a one-stop publish button on the iPad would be great, technically there are too many intermediary steps and Apple rules to be able to do that as Dan points out. If Composer were a desktop or web based app, we may be able to get closer to that.

    The business model is more adjustable. As a startup we won't get infinite chances for sure, but there are iterations based on what works and what people want. We've put one model out there that can work for many. One option could be a subscription model - but any scenario with unlimited books which is blackshadow seems to refer to - is still a grey area for us. I am not saying we won't go there, but our goal was to see what people begin producing on Composer first.

    To make this a mass market play where people create interactive productions for even lower costs, many things are still possible. Even in the v1 of Composer you can share a book with friends for free if they also have Composer. You just can't monetize it in the App Store.

    Klas' points here raise the question of quality. Especially for children's books, quality matters. Blackshadow makes another good point on discoverability in the App Store. We have thoughts on a marketplace that has both quality and aids discoverability. It's a different model but will be very interesting. While publishing process there will be more direct - and costs will be less - there has to be some selection of quality.

    If you can hit me with a stick or a lightbulb on these topics, I welcome more dialog here or directly: rafiq at demibooks.com. Thank you!
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  • Hi Rafiq Ahmed,

    Thank you for your excellent reply and information regarding your business model.

    After reading the note from Dan about exporting, I have a better understanding of the limitations.

    In regards to a Demibooks Composer desktop or web based, I'm sure that would be awesome and would please the people whom have posted a desire for such product. I imagine that this would be another gigantic effort and would result in increased costs, man hours, and more support for two products instead of just one.

    What do you think about a simple Demibooks Compiler OSX/Windows companion app, that would go through the process of compiling DCB and creating a .ipa file and testing? This could be where you wouldn't necessarily have to abandon your PrintShop model but also give the user the ability to self publish at an increased price for this separate application.

    Subscriptions are also another restrictive business modeI for software unless you also include the ability to buy out right. You could always charge for upgrades/updates so as to not permanently end your revenue flow.

    I understand that this is just the beginning of the greatness we will see from Demibooks. I personally believe that Demibooks could fare extremely well in expanding their efforts to become more of a full stop interactive publishing for magazines, brochures, even interactive music albums, as well as just books. Including these while at the same time maybe altering the business model to encourage more one on one design help; Demibooks could be seen as more a way of helping to bring dreams come to life; instead of a maker of a spectacular iPad app with a pay to play publishing system.

    For instance, Adobe has a plethora of fragmented forums pertaining to each one of their applications. A huge number of the messages are usually about bugs/troubleshooting while some posts from users will be about actual design. The Adobe reps strictly comment (from what I have seen) about the bugs or operating the software. I like your message board as is. Additionally, what if Demibooks became more aimed at actually helping the customer make the designs/creations that they dream up. You could still be selling your software but also creating a direct positive interaction with your customers in the creation process. You could charge by hour, per page, 10 pages etc.

    Do not worry about everyone making the quality that Demibooks deems fit. At present you wouldn't turn down someone's book because there illustrations or story are not top notch. Autodesk, Corel, Adobe, etc. do not police the work of their users. However, they do highlight the best work. You can and are doing the same with current Demibooks users, which is awesome. Nobody blames the paint, 3d model, text, or sculpture, on what brand or program is used. The only blame falls onto the artist.

    I will keep your invite to email open and will likely write to you sometime.

    Thank you very much.
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    • Sorry was a bit buried last few days, blackshadow. We really appreciate the faith you have in our abilities! The team gets a lot of energy from these discussions. We'd love to strike the proper balance between the competing needs as you say. Will look forward to sharing more details as they develop and continuing to checkpoint on this topic.
    • Hi Rafiq Ahmed,

      Thank you for your continued communication and consideration.
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  • I'm glad to see that breadth of discussion on the PrintShop. I appreciate the frank comments from blackshadow and Klas and others.

    Overall, we wanted Composer to be accesible as I agree with other comments that a high price might drive away new authors wanting to try to tool at a low cost.

    However, in turn, making Composer more accesible puts more cost pressure elsewhere. As Rafiq mentioned, it is hard to reconcile the various pressures.

    I understand the unlimited and unfettered production models, like Adobe with a high priced tool and ultimate freedom after purchase. However, these tools are able to 'self-compile' any working files into a playable file. As mentioned by blackshadow the mac/windows self-compile tool might be an avenue around this, but one that has a number of technical and workflow challenges.

    We thought it would be better to start with a workflow that a) provides accesible access to a new tool before requiring heavy cost commitment and b) reduces the complexity and work on behalf of the end-user.

    We learn everyday and I can only re-confirm that we working to make both construction (via Composer) and publishing (via PrintShop) as accessible and cost-effective as possible.

    As I have said elsewhere and will say again, watch this space and keep the conversation flowing.
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  • Hi Chris,

    Thank you so much for your open communication and comments. I appreciate all of your time and effort that you put into this application/community I will keep reading and commenting as Demibooks develops.

    In regards to both of your mentioned points A and B. Both of those goals are great ones to have and have been met with Demibooks Composer.

    Unfortunately, the missing piece of the puzzle for this platform to take off is in the publishing aspect. Even, one of only three iTunes reviews for your app really drives this point home.

    http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/demibo...

    Though I do not agree with the sentiments that relay the idea of willful deception on Demibooks part, "Don't buy into how they want to offer the app for free to help self publishers realize their dreams."

    The average person whom does not interact on this message board nor those that can afford to perpetually pay to publish will feel varying degrees of this.

    As awesome as your application is, many people will generally just feel like they have been given a bait and switch. Or at the very least less enthusiastic due to the current publishing model.

    I sincerely and eagerly hope that a Demibooks Desktop Publisher application becomes a reality.
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  • blackshadow, good point on the misperception of "bait and switch" from just reading the App Store description - the PrintShop details were not available at the time of launching the App. We'll update the description so it is clear there are publishing costs. Thanks.
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  • To my mind, there is fundamentally nothing wrong with the publishing model, given that the program actually works as advertised . I have created a book with this tool, and it is clear to me that Composer is potentially a versatile and extremely powerful tool for creating apps that are more than just books with some animation thrown in. You could create animated Christmas cards with this application, for instance. Company advert apps. Portfolio apps. Or apps that are interactive but don't even look or feel like books. When video playback comes, this will open up even more possibilities.

    I fully agree with you that Demibooks has the potential to be a breakthrough platform for the iPad. I cannot, however, agree with the idea that it needs to be free for that to happen. You mention bait and switch. What is the bait in your opinion? That great software is and should be offered for free?

    However. It DOES need to function without memory issues and random crashes. 500 bucks is a hefty fee. I, for one, expect a quality product for that price. I know any potential customers would.
    • Hi Klas Holmlund,

      I'm glad that you can see the potential usage of Demibooks Composer beyond just interactive books as well.

      Of course Demibooks Composer and any additional publishing application should be a paid application.

      I only mentioned free once in regards to an idea of non export addition. Now that is a non-issue since I have since learned that the iPad cannot natively export .ipa anyways. I would easily pay for Demibooks Composer alone (though it's being offered for free currently) and additionally I would also $500-$999 for a companion desktop application to publish .ipa files.

      You have either misread and/or glanced over my statements. I believe that the awesome people at Demibooks should be paid well and then some. I would just like to be able to purchase an additional desktop publishing companion application as well.

      I'm sure that the Demibooks programmers will continue harnessing their ungodly skills and make improvements as far as stability and memory management goes.
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