Innovation

The future of publishing is on your TV and in VR

As tablet sales stall, cloud publishing platform Madefire explains why 'motion' books are the future of publishing.

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Image: Madefire

A decade ago smart phones, e-readers, and tablets helped save the publishing industry. Mobile devices broadened the market and diversified the types of content readers could devour. Today the market for phones and tablets has matured, and the living room has become the next frontier for publishing.

Motion book platform Madefire makes publishing everything from animated stories to comic books on 4K television sets and VR units simple for independent creators and major publishers alike. "[Madefire] is a mobile publishing and distribution platform," said CTO Eugene Walden. While comic books and entertainment grab headlines, the consumer experience is deeply immersive, and "it can even be used for corporate training and sales materials," Walden said.

The Motion Book Publisher is the flagship technology that powers several. The platform is a publishing and measurement tool that allows creators to produce and distribute unique, "motion" content. Static comic book panels become animations, movie and TV storyboards flow smoothly from frame to frame, and text content can be augmented with images that highlight important words and phrases.

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The analytics component gives publishers data about how readers interact with content.

"Distributors of books—Amazon, Apple, Google, and others—own the customer relationship," Walden said. "If a customer purchases a book on Amazon, Amazon knows everything about the transaction, and can market to that customer. The publisher, on the other hand, doesn't get access to that information."

How do you use the cloud to distribute content?

Motion Book Publisher is an end-to-end publishing platform. We have a web-based authoring tool with over 80,000 registered users. The Motion Book Tool can publish directly into mobile apps, as well as to DeviantArt, and to the web.

In between all of that sits the Motion Book Publisher cloud, which handles purchases, subscriptions, synchronization of purchases across Google Play, iTunes Connect, Windows Store, and Stripe. We also have a full-featured CMS that is used for content ingestion, organization, features, notifications, and all the other functionality that is required to run a digital storefront.

What technology does the platform rely on?

We are strong believers in native mobile apps, so all of our apps are developed using native technologies. Our iOS reading app is developed in Xcode using native libraries, Objective-C, and Swift. Our Android app is developed in Android Studio using native libraries and Java. Our Windows app is developed as a UWP app using Visual Studio, native libraries, C#, and XAML. It's a challenge to support all of these platforms natively, but the consumer expectation for mobile app experiences is very high.

What are the major trends in content distribution technology?

We seem to be at an interesting intersection of content, pop culture, and technology.

From a technology perspective, we are embarking on some really compelling projects with VR and AR. Over the next three years new forms of storytelling will emerge, and we intend to be a part of the authoring and delivery of content.

From a business perspective, we will continue to build in the adjacent verticals. We have some very interesting concepts for innovating in the reading of text and non-visual storytelling. These [types of content] will open up new possibilities from a technology perspective, and also new business opportunities for the major players as the market evolves.

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We were one of a handful of apps selected by Apple to be part of the Apple TV launch, and similarly, we were selected by Google as one of a handful of apps to be part of the Android TV launch. Microsoft has also been a great partner, and we are really proud of the Windows 8 app that we launched, and we will be launching a Windows 10 version imminently.

Beyond comic book content, how else is the platform used by publishers?

We are very interested in helping to create a new grammar for visual storytelling in the era of devices, and in VR.

We have some very interesting concepts for innovating in the reading of text and non-visual storytelling.

We are building relationships with media partners, as well. We're helping [media companies] move into the new world of storytelling on mobile, VR and AR. As we move further into digital storytelling, [new companies] will create these stories. The trends are pretty clear.

Publishers are at risk in the same way that record labels were at risk a decade ago. The publishers who thrive will be the ones who manage to develop a relationship with their readers. Otherwise, their piece of the value chain will be diminished.

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Dan is a Senior Writer for TechRepublic. He covers cybersecurity and the intersection of technology, politics and government.

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