Papertrell Aims to Turn Reference Books into Apps


Getting started with Papertrell is easy.

In general, I tend to shy away from the “app-ification” of eBooks. If it’s a book, I want to just sit down and read it. I like eBooks, but I don’t need unnecessary videos, music, etc. However, the exception is reference books, cookbooks, and anything else where it’s not a linear process to read from point A to point B. These books do very well as apps, and the work to create them is often more complex than just digitizing text. Papertrell is the company that works behind the scenes to take a regular book and turn into a reference app. Recently we had the chance to sit down and talk with them about their services, how they started, and the ways they can craft a digital resource for anyone.

Papertrell basically creates app-ified eBooks for authors, and they manage the app side of the equation. So if you’ve written, say, a wilderness survival guide, you can work with Papertrell to turn it into a digital format for iOS, Android, and Windows. What’s the benefit of going through Papertrell over just self-publishing through Amazon or a similar store? Reference books, cookbooks, and similar works don’t fit well as traditional eBooks. You have to work harder to flip around an eBook than you do with a paper book. As I said above, that’s fine if you’re reading cover to cover, but if you just need to duck in and make sure the leaf you touched wasn’t poison ivy, you don’t want to get bogged down in digging for the table of contents. That’s where an app makes more sense, since you can construct it to more easily allow you to jump around and “dip in” for what you need, as Papertrell put it.

I find this to be a very intriguing concept, and they’ve already convinced Harper Collins of the value. They were one of the early publishers to start working with the company, and I think they’ll get more publisher support as they grow. The app/reference book mashup fits for genres that simply don’t work for regular eBooks, but that have been the bread and butter of publishing for years. Ever walk into a bookstore and check out the bargain books section? Remember all those beautiful cookbooks with different cuisines, the oversize photo books of different tourism spots, and the artwork books? Those are generally not books that were previously published at full price; they’re made cheaply as impulse purchases, because who doesn’t love the idea of a pretty book of Italian dishes for $4.99? This is a platform that lets the quasi-bargain reference book rise as an app, with similar impulse pricing, pretty pictures, and an easy to use interface.


Pick your genre and start creating with Papertrell!

Papertrell let me fiddle a bit with the creation tool, and while I didn’t have a book to build, I found the process to be remarkably easy. They’ve created a site that is simple and clear, and it holds your hand through each set. You tell the system what you’re looking to do (create a new book, upload an existing book, etc), then select the genre. After that, you can add video, photos, quizzes, social networking integration, and just about anything else you might want to include. From there, Papertrell builds the app and lets you preview it for free.

Should you decide to have them publish it, that’s where cost comes into the equation. Creation is free, but publishing on all major app stores (iOS, Android, Amazon Kindle, B&N NOOK, Windows, etc) can run up to $1999; however, there are cheaper options that start at $20 a month. You won’t have to pay until you’re ready to publish your app, unless you choose to pay for their add-on services that assist with design. They have a full breakdown of the options on their website.

I am very intrigued by Papertrell, and think it is definitely a company to watch going forwards. Their platform officially goes live today, February 28th, but they have worked on a private basis with publishers already, so they have a fair amount of app experience in their portfolio. The designing software seems very smooth and clear, they walk you through each step carefully, and this gives publishers, authors, and content creators a way to make reference titles far more engaging than a traditional eBook can offer. Because it’s cross-platform, there aren’t the issues that video eBooks within individual stores encounter, where a video Kindle book won’t work outside of iOS, or similar restrictions. Cracking how to get reference and textbook titles to go digital in a way that makes readers want to embrace them is the next big leap forwards for eBooks, and Papertrell has an excellent platform to kick off this change!

Papertrell – Reimagining Books from Trellisys on Vimeo.

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About the Author

Zek has been a gadget fiend for a long time, going back to their first PDA (a Palm M100). They quickly went from researching what PDA to buy to following tech news closely and keeping up with the latest and greatest stuff. They love writing about ebooks because they combine their two favorite activities; reading anything and everything, and talking about fun new tech toys. What could be better?