This post, by Nick Ruffilo, originally appeared on Publishing Perspectives on 3/13/13.
The difference between the physical (hardware) and the digital (software) is that software is malleable. Allowing a physical book to go to print with a large mistake is a huge problem. Once it is in stores, it needs to be pulled from the shelf, destroyed, then re-printed. And, for the customers who have rewarded you (bought your book), they’re left with a problem.
When it comes to software, you can simply correct your mistake and upload the new file. There are update mechanisms for all the major ebook sellers — although some are better than others. This means that instead of punishing readers and customers, publishers now have the ability to push out the corrected version. Also, there are no costs for removing the old file, accepting returns, etc. You still need to quality check your content — especially on different devices — but correcting mistakes is much quicker.
Angry Birds Should Be Your Idol
Addictive gameplay aside, minute-for-minute, Angry Birds is the best dollar I’ve ever spent. For those who have not purchased Angry Birds, let me explain why. When you buy the games (there are many different flavors) on release day, they come with a handful of levels — more than enough to validate its $1 price point — but a finite amount. Then, after about a week or two of playing, I start to lose interest (or have beaten all the levels). Then, a month or so later, I notice that there is an app update. Unlike most apps updates for “Bug fixes” or “Added iPhone 5 compatibility,” Angry Birds offers this rewarding message: “30 new fun filled levels have been added!” For free, with the tap of the “update” button, I get more content just because I bought the game. As time goes on, the updates get less frequent, but they keep me engaged.
They update when they have a new game.
When Angry Birds Star Wars came out, there was an update to Angry Birds (the original). So, I saw there was an update, downloaded it, and after beating the additional 30 or so levels, I wanted more, and what was waiting for me, but Angry Birds Star Wars. Did I buy it? You bet I did.
How Books Can Be Iterative