Collins is to publish its most ambitious app to date, with the launch of Brian Cox's "Wonders of the Universe". The app hopes to take advantage of the arrival of the iPad 3, and to establish what Collins digital publisher Alex Gatrell described as a "new frontier for digital publishing".
Gatrell said the app was "heaven-sent for fans of astronomy and of Brian Cox", but also "meets a growing public thirst for knowledge in the Astrophysics field".
The app combines two £20 backlist titles based on Cox's two BBC series, "Wonders of the Solar System" and "Wonders of the Universe", in a digital package that will retail on the Apple app store at a promotional rate of £4.99, with the r.r.p. set at £6.99.
Gatrell said the intention was to "go for volume", with a particular emphasis on sales in the US, where it will retail at $9.99. He added that Collins' SAS Survival Guide app has sold 150,000 copies at £3.99 apiece since launching, and continues to sell 2,000 to 3,000 editions each week.
Collins brokered a partnership with the BBC to include two and a half hours of video in the app, extending their conventional publishing relationship. According to Collins, it is the first time the BBC has allowed its broadcast content to be repurposed for use in a third-party app.
The app also includes all the images and words from the two titles, pitched into a "bespoke 3D environment" created by app developer the OTHER Media. It uses a "Glide Publisher" display, a scrollable column of text that features rich media elements—video, image galleries and interactive infographics—at appropriate moments in the narrative.
The OTHER Media's Chris Harris said it was important to raise the quality of apps in order to break out from the crowd. "We really wanted to stand on the world stage and show what we can do: we pushed it to the limits." He said the big effort was in building the 3D engine, but now it has been built it can be used on other products. "HarperCollins is sitting on an almost infinite resource of content," he said.
The project has been endorsed by Cox, who described the app simply as "wonderful". Cox is currently working on his new BBC show "Wonders of Life", to which Collins also has the tie-in rights. Gatrell said HarperCollins was unsure whether the new content would be sold as an addition to the app, or a standalone product.
The app launches this week (29th March).