Q&A with Touch Press CEO Max Whitby

I’ve already discussed on a previous post how I’m a bit of a Touch Press groupie because I love the way they design their apps and have great partnerships to deliver new content in surprising ways. I reviewed their latest app – Leonardo Da Vinci: Anatomy for iPad here and it made me curious about their development approaches and partnerships.

I asked Touch Press CEO Max Whitby some questions to understand more about how they operate and how they manage to make such amazing content partnerships.

Books are one of the defining inventions of the civilisation—and today they are poised for a revolution. Our aim is to create a new kind of book that makes use of emerging technology to redefine the book, reinvent publishing, and forever transform the act of reading. From the Touch Press website.

Digireado: Hello Max, thanks for answering some questions. I know you said in regard to The Waste Land the objective was to keep functionality quite separate from the content. This enables the functionality to be reused and built upon.

Max Whitby: Yes we build all our titles in such a way that content and functionality are kept separate.This makes proofing and bug fixing during the final stages of production much easier, and also allows us to publish a series of titles using essentially the same code base. This is vital if production is to be scaled up.

Digireado: Are Touch Press building upon what you have technically produced each time you release a new app?

Max Whitby: Definitely. The interactive book in Leonardo redeploys many of the interface ideas and code that we developed for our previous title Skulls by Simon Winchester. In June we will be publishing Shakespeare’s Sonnets in partnership with Faber & Faber. This builds directly on the engine we created for The Waste Land.

Digireado: Is there something new about the Leonardo da Vinci: Anatomy app  apart from the content?

Max Whitby: There are three key features in Leonardo da Vinci: Anatomy in addition to the 287 high resolution, pinch-zoomable drawings:

  1. The ability to touch any of Leonardo’s 100,000 words of backwards hand written annotations and read them in situ translated into typeset English;
  2. Around 70 interactive pages where we can compare Leonardo’s drawings with state-of-the art 3D anatomical models (from Primal Pictures) that can be zoomed, rotated and layer can often be revealed and removed;
  3. The story of Leonardo’s investigations told in text and video by Martin Clayton and other experts in the field.

Digireado: Although you have exceptional functionality, without the partners who provide the content would it be fair to say your apps may not get the favourable press and feedback?

Max Whitby: Absolutely.  Partnership is fundamental to the way Touch Press operates. Not only to allow us to include valuable IP, but also to benefit from our collaborators’ expertise. We really do build a team combining all out talents to work on titles. It is not a case of simply licensing content.

Digireado: How do Touch Press manage to get such amazing partnerships?

Max Whitby: We have first-mover advantage.  And many of us in the company have a long history of working as a senior level with other organisations (I was a film maker at the BBC for many years and Theodore Gray co-founded Wolfram Research, a large software company that has collaborated over many years with Apple).

Digireado:  How do Touch Press manage to work out revenue splits?

Max Whitby: We have a simple business model that give the owner of the IP 25% of net revenue; Touch Press 25% for our brand, for our existing software base, our production systems and for taking responsibility for release; and 50% to whoever funds the project (typically split equally with our partner so that we each end up with 50% of net revenue).

Digireado:  From the initial idea to proceed it took The Waste Land app one year to be developed. But you had said after that it would take around four months. Has that been an accurate guess for the time Touch Press have spent on subsequent app development?

Max Whitby: Development time for the projects we are currently working on range from four months to a year.

Digireado: Thanks so much for your time Max! I know I’m not alone when I say I’m looking forward to the next launch for Touch Press – Shakespeare’s Sonnets for iPad. For lovers of The Wire and The Hour you may enjoy the latest video promoting Shakespeare’s Sonnets featuring Dominic West! I include it for your enjoyment and highly recommend the David Tennant clip as well.

You may also be interested in reading:

Touch Press App Developments

Leonardo da Vinci: Anatomy app by Touch Press

Do you have a favourite bookish app? Let me know in the comments!

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