This time last year we wrote on this blog about how to “gift” an app to someone. I found myself thinking about that post again recently after seeing a couple of stories in the news. Last month, Nielsen released the results of their annual survey into the most-wanted (by 6-12 year olds in the US) Christmas gifts, and once again, iPads topped the list (in fact, of the top 5 items, all but one – the Nintendo Wii – are Apple touchscreen devices). And a couple of weeks ago, Amazon were forced to disclose their UK sales figures to Parliament after failing to answer MPs’ questions about tax – revealing net sales of £2.91bn in 2011, a significant chunk of which it is fair to assume came from sales of the Kindle (Amazon frequently describe their ereader as the number one bestselling item on their site).
So it looks like there’ll be a lot of iPads and Kindles under Christmas trees this year – but what about content? It seems like a no-brainer that if you give someone an iPad, they’d also be very happy to receive apps or other media to put onto it – but I haven’t seen many examples of this really taking place (other than indirectly, through the giving of iTunes vouchers). The insurmountable obstacle for most people, even if only unconsciously, is that they want to hand over a physical object that can be unwrapped.
I gifted my first app this year. My father is a very keen iPad user and a real cycling enthusiast, and for his birthday, I bought him Cyclepedia by Heuristic Media. As I paid for it, I caught myself thinking whether I should “dress up” the gift by printing the redemption code on nice paper and including it in a card, and eventually, I decided this was silly. It was what it was: a digital object. Cyclepedia is a beautiful example of the way a physical book (in this case, Thames and Hudson’s Cyclepedia book) can be enhanced as an app: it’s simply glorious to look at and use on an iPad. And as soon as he downloaded the app and started using it, I felt exactly the same sensation as I would had I handed over a physical gift – happiness from the act of giving and from seeing someone enjoy their present.
In an interesting article from Boston Magazine published earlier this year, giving advice to parents on embracing technology, Warren Buckleitner makes an astute observation: “Childhood minutes are scarce, so filling your $500 iPad with freebie apps is like setting up a huge fish tank but skimping on the fish.” He goes on to say that, “Fifty dollars on apps can go a long way. Make sure your list includes Toca Boca, Touch Press, Moonbot, Duck Duck Moose and Nosy Crow — young brands that have come to stand for quality.”
Yesterday we wrote about our favourite Christmas books (and I mentioned that almost all of the Christmas shopping that I’d done so far had been books) – and perhaps we should have included apps on that list as well. Of course, there are real obstacles to giving apps (you can’t gift an app on iTunes internationally, for instance). But are their apps or ebooks you’d like to receive this holiday? And would you be happy to give them yourself? We’d love to hear what you think.