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IMG_0493Although there’s raging debate over how to pull the publishing world into the digital age, there seems to be consensus that one important way to do so is via mobile applications. Today Random House announced its first initiative in that space, in a partnership with Mobile Roadie, a service that bands and artists use to create their own iPhone apps.

(Other recent moves to take publishing mobile include an iTunes for magazines from Conde Nast and others.)

Random House has created iPhone apps for three of its most popular authors—Steve Berry, Sophie Kinsella, and Karen Marie Moning. These free apps, available now in iTunes, let fans preview books, access bonus content, interact with other fans, read about the author, find where they’re appearing, listen to audiobook clips, and more.

The apps give authors a platform for promoting and selling their books, publicizing appearances, streaming podcasts or other content, and generally creating a brand around themselves instead of around a single book.

IMG_0490If successful, these apps—which, thanks to Mobile Roadie’s system, aren’t especially difficult to build—will likely be followed by many more, from within the Random House family as well as outside of it.

Thanks to Mobile Roadie’s app wizard, creating such an iPhone app, albeit one that may not look terribly unique, is something anyone can do for about $500. It costs $.01 per user per month to maintain the app. For authors, artists, bands, athletes, and more, it’s an easy, code-free way to launch an iPhone app.

The mobile app ecosystem is really only starting to find its legs, but traditional publishers seem to be exploring the ecosystem for new business models—which bodes well for the publishing industry, and for consumers.

Mobile Roadie was founded in 2008 in Los Angeles, and is currently backed by private angels and in the middle of raising its first institutional round of funding.

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