In a panel at Mediabistro’s Publishing App Expo last week, publishing professionals discussed the challenges of publishing digital books. On a panel called, “Beyond the Paywall: Real Life Business Models for Apps”, publishing consultant/project manager at Electric Publisher Ron Hogan said that publishers are testing enhanced eBooks and aren’t always happy with the results.

“In the traditional book world, we saw publishers look at what would distinguish an enhanced eBook from a traditional eBook,” he said.

Hogan said that Simon & Schuster were building enhanced eBooks but threw up their hands up after the response was poor. “They don’t know how to market this yet,” he said. “A lot of publishers are saying this. They don’t know what to do with an enhanced eBook and how to make it stand out from the other eBook markets.”

One challenge that Hogan said is still up for debate is the cost. Publishers don’t know what to charge and they don’t know how much they should invest in enhanced eBooks and book apps. “They hear they are going to have to pay $40,000 for an app, and half the time they don’t make the money back on a $40,000 print book,” he said.