Scaling Ideas: Apps vs Books

To sit alone in the lamplight with a book spread out before you, and hold intimate converse with men of unseen generations – such is a pleasure beyond compare.
Kenko Yoshida

When I was starting to study psychology instead of computer science I knew I would never get rich by doing psychology (Sigh, being right can be a curse.) After all, psychology is mostly a 1:1 business. At least if you think advisory, or even therapy (with the exception of group therapy, but that is also limited in numbers).

Computer scientists, well, programmers, can scale their work extremely easy. If you have developed an app, people can download and use it — without relying on you (save for updates, bug fixes, etc.). It scales pretty well.

But recently I noticed that I might be wrong about the limits of psychology — or any other discipline. After all, there are books. Sure, there are only a few very successful popular science books on the market, but there are only a few really successful apps as well. After all, the app store is filled with stillbirths.

And I wonder whether there isn’t a niche in between apps and books. Looking at some popular science books, esp. when it comes to psychological issues like resilience, habit change, etc., perhaps there is a market by developing apps to make the workbook (or exercises) more interactive (if you can translate your findings into algorithms). To take the information the smartphone has about your behavior anyway and use it.

There are some examples of these apps, hell, a student of mine did develop an app for depressive patients to log their activities (and later one for borderline patients). In both cases, the app was based on therapy manuals. And there are lots of other health apps.

So, things do not look that bad if you cannot develop apps (or do not want to, it can be a pain in the ass after all). Books can scale fairly well, and companion apps … yeah, there is potential. It might be possible to use it with freelancers.

Just a thought after noticing the obvious (to be fair, the whole self-help literature is easy to overlook if you are self-reliant 😉 ).