Behind the App: Open Air Publishing Founder on Creating Betterbooks and What Nonfiction Titles Need to Succeed on Tablets

Open Air Pub
Since its inception in May 2011, Open Air Publishing‘s Betterbook series has released an impressive number of spot-on how-to guides for grown-ups, including Wine Simplified and Holiday Recipes & Party Planning Guide, by Food52. Wine Simplified and Food 52’s holiday guide impressed me when I reviewed them last December, and I still apply the knowledge I gained from each digital book, as well as returning to the apps themselves, on a regular basis.

I was thrilled when Jon Feldman, Open Air’s President, Founder, and CEO, agreed to share his thoughts on what makes a Betterbook, the future of digital nonfiction, and his opinion on which company makes the most needed iOS apps.

(PadGadget): What inspired the “Betterbook” concept?

(Open Air Publishing): We see the transition of books from print to digital much like during the late-40s transition of radio to television. TV started as leading radio shows read by a talking head, but the content that ultimately won on TV was created specifically for the TV. That’s what we’re making, but for books: We’re making books for the iPad generation while traditional publishers are adopting books made for paper into digital text files. Nonfiction on e-readers and tablets is begging to be more than just a text file.

(PG): Have you met with resistance as you create a digital version of a product so long associated with print?
(OAP): I haven’t seen any resistance. We find that our readers are delighted when they discover that there’s a better way to make books — cookbooks, how-to books, and more — than just taking a paper text file and putting it on the screen.

(PG): What was the first app you released? What did you learn from its release that helped you release subsequent titles?
(OAP): Our first book app was Speakeasy Cocktails. We learned a ton from it form direct feedback from our users, as well as data on in-app usage, which helped informed both which topics to make as well as how to make them. With each book since then we learn more and more and continue to improve the reader experience.

(PG): Are Betterbooks as profitable as you had hoped?
(OAP): Yes.

(PG): Who are your favorite iOS app developers?
(OAP): The apps that I use most are probably made by Google. If you think about it (search, maps, Chrome, Gmail, voice, and docs) they’re really make the most needed iOS apps. Other than that, I’m a big fan of Uber and Spotify.

(PG): One of the things I like most about Open Air’s products is that they work on my iPad, iPhone, and desktop computer. Which of these platforms gets the most reader traffic?
(OAP): iPad. But as we’ve now opened our content to Google’s search index, via Inkling, I expect web/desktop traffic to increase dramatically.

(PG): Do you have any other projects in the works that you would like to tell us about?
(OAP): We’re really excited about “Ready, Set, Baby!”, our next book which will be the modern alternative to “What to Expect” — a parenting book for the next generation of parents.

Now it’s time for the speed round. It’s easy, just tell me which term you prefer:

Lightning or 30-pin? Um, I still have an iPhone 4, so 30-Pin?

Jobs or Cook? Jobs

Facebook or Twitter? What’s Twitter?

iPad or iPhone? Both.

Wi-Fi or cellular? Wi-Fi.

Print or digital? What do you think? :)

Work or sleep? Not mutually exclusive.

Pie or cake? Neither.

Do you have a favorite Betterbook title, or is there one you’re hoping the company will release? Let us know in the comments.

About Emily: Emily is a freelance writer who loves discovering new apps whenever she can pry the iPad away from her children or husband. You can contact her via Twitter: @whatwentwrite