Novel and Story Writing Software and Tablets

I do a little work on the side for an eCommerce website owned by my brother and his wife. The most recent work involved a re-design of their website to properly handle display on tablets and smart phones. Six months ago this was a job that I planned to look into in a year or more, but in June of this year I pulled the website stats and saw that over 40% of the site’s commercial traffic was coming from mobile devices of one kind or another.

Tablets are the future of eCommerce. Everyone is using them these days. Hence the re-design.

Most of the software aimed at creative writers runs on full PCs or Macs. It either doesn’t run at all on tablets, or has a dumbed down version that runs on tablets and syncs to larger computers. But the figures for tablet use don’t lie.

What does this mean for writing software? Should all this software be re-engineered to run on tablets?

My own feeling is no. For the most part, tablets are used by consumers of content. By people who want to read the books you write, watch the videos you make and upload to YouTube, listen to the music you create in your garage.

The actual creation of that content is still carried out on regular computers. Sure, there’s always the outlying case, the exception: the writer who thinks that tapping in 10 words on his smart phone while waiting for a bus is a sure fired way to finish that 200,000 word novel, the wannabe movie producer who prefers an iPhone to a more useful and versatile camera, etc.

Serious content creators use serious tools, and these tools do not yet exist on tablets, and probably never will. Can you imagine the cramp that would develop if you typed for 5 hours a day, every day, on the screen of your iPad? Why would any professional writer do this when they can use a larger screen and a real keyboard?

Porting software for content creation to tablets and smart phones is likely to prove a mistake. The technology is moving so fast that the work would be never ending — always playing catch up with different versions of Android. Not so with desktops, which have remained relatively static for years. Old software designed for Windows XP often runs without problems on Windows 8. On top of which, it’s by no means clear if real content creators will ever use tablets or smart phones to do real work. Sure, the amateur enthusiast will get all fired up, but how many published authors are tapping away on their smart phones, eager to be mobile as they work on that new chapter? A tiny fraction of 1%, I’d guess.

And then there’s the question of payment. Users have no problem paying real money for desktop software. Scrivener sells at $45, SmartEdit at $60, etc. What’s the typical price of an Android app? Can you see any app buyer paying that $45 or $60 for a cut down version of the same software?

Mobile devices are great for consuming content, and that’s what most people use them for. That’s what they were designed for. The creation of that content still requires a larger computer, and that’s unlikely to change.

A tablet version of SmartEdit is not even on the long term plan.

13 Aug 2013