The Future of Ebook Apps (Today)
Kindle for the Web

QR Codes: Making Static Content Dynamic

Qrcode You've probably already seen quite a few of the funky looking graphics like the one on the left.  It's called a QR code and it's a quick and easy way to share a website link that can be decoded by a mobile app using a smartphone camera.  For example, I use the ScanLife QR code reader app on my iPhone.

We included a bunch of QR codes in our popular book, Best Android Apps; a code appeared for each app so readers could quickly find and download them from the Android Market.  Before QR codes publishers had to include urls to point readers to a related website; now they can include QR code graphics and readers simply point and shoot to get to the same location.  QR codes aren't just limited to urls though.  You can embed a simple message, a phone number or even a text message in a code.

Why should you care about QR codes?  They have the potential to dramatically enhance the user's experience with your content.  Here are a few potential applications:

A cookbook that lists the ingredients and describes the preparation process but it can also include QR codes with links to videos showing how to create the dish.

A travel guide can describe a destination and include a picture or two but it can also include QR codes featuring an entire gallery of photos and videos.  Better yet, why not have a QR code take you to a custom map showing where you are (using the smartphone's geolocation sensor) and all the great, must-see highlights around you?

You're learning German and you just bought a tutorial on the language.  At the end of each lesson, why not have QR codes that take you to a short assessment test to make sure you learned everything you need to know?

The possibilities are endless.  What I love about all this is that it takes a static print book and makes it much more dynamic.  QR codes aren't limited to print books though.  They're just as useful in an ebook.  In both situations you're simply adding a second object to the equation, your smartphone.  As such, it's important to think about the user experience; the sites your QR codes point to are most useful when they're built with the small screen in mind.

What are some of the ways you could use QR codes to enhance your content?

P.S. -- Be sure to check out the QR code at the top of this blog post -- it takes you to one of my favorite blogs. :-)



The possibilities are endless Joe. For instance, there is an app called DigitEyes for the iPhone that allows you to attach audio recordings to QR codes. Blind users can print "blank" QR code label sheets and using the camera, hold the phone over the label and the app will auto-focus, grab the code and prompt the user to attach an audio clip. This allows them to label things like canned-goods, or other items and then simply scan them with their iPhone camera and have it read back their audio clip. It also can scan the UPC code on the product to provide the user with the underlying metadata. Good stuff!

Ariel Diaz

I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to disagree with you here. QR codes will not catch on for more than flight boarding passes and similar esoteric information dense 2D limited uses.

All three of your examples are obviated with the cookbook / travel guide / German tutorial are on your iPad or laptop, in which case simple links are WAY more convenient and intuitive than QR codes. Not only that, the mixed modality (paper / digital) is not a very comfortable one, and the audiences will continue to diverge, i.e. people who continue to buy cookbooks in 3+ years are decidedly not going to be the ones who are using QR codes, the people who may have wanted to are going to be finding recipes on their tablets. Plus, using QR codes is a pain in the ass that no non-techie will ever actually use other than for boarding passes or similar conveniences.

They were marginally useful in a world where people didn't have location aware smartphones with them all the time, and thus have much better ways of getting random information (search), or finding specific information about a specific place / time (geo tag, etc.).

There will be perhaps other specific use cases for QR codes, like games and links and social (kind of like what StickyBits is building, though they're also relying on current barcodes as well).

Ed Renehan

We are building QR codes, where appropriate, into several of our upcoming books at New Street, and are very excited about the possibilities. All best, - ER

ps - your best android apps is one of the most useful things I've come across in a long time.

Ed Renehan

I meant to say your "best android apps" book is one of the most useful things I've come across in a long time.

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