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April 6, 2010 • eBooks, Editorials

GearChat: Are iBooks a NY Times Bestseller, or a Publisher Reject?

image courtesy CNET

Here at Gear Diary, we love ebooks. We also love to debate all manner of gadgetry, so of course we had to share our thoughts on what Apple’s foray into ebooks would mean for the world…

Doug: I’m wondering how much shaking out we’re going to see in the next 6 months or so. Carly, do you think Apple is going to yank the non-Apple eBook readers?

Carly: No. What’s the point? iBooks seems like a “oh yea, let’s get in on this too” project, rather than a serious effort. Unless they have a plan for coordinated releases on the phone and the Mac, it’s more of a convenience offering than a serious attempt to take on ebooks.

Doug: The point would be to force people to buy books through iTunes so that Apple gets the revenue, rather than let Amazon or Borders or B&N get the revenue.

Carly: But they let them in initially, and people are buying the iPad FOR these apps. It doesn’t make sense. Also, if they were going to do it they would have been better off just not letting the outside stores in at all. Most people are going to stick with their preferred stores, and just be even more livid at Apple if they pulled a fast one. It’s not worth the backlash, and their window of opportunity was prior to the approval of the Kindle app. Now is too late.

Doug: Well, yeah. It didn’t make sense to me when we heard about it all in January and were trying to figure all this stuff out. It seems as bizarre to me as B&N having, what, three different online bookstores?

Chris: I think most CURRENT users will stick with their current apps. But that’s really small compared to the potential market.

Going forward I don’t know that folks won’t pick the iBooks/iPad mix. That said their “me too” foray into books may be enough – I don’t know!

Carly: To an extent, the ebook market is big enough for everyone, though. And so far Apple doesn’t seem to be taking it terribly seriously beyond an ‘us too’ response.

Doug: Which surprises me, frankly; I thought Jobs was smarter than that. Or perhaps it’s because he couldn’t bend the publishers to his will like he did with the record companies?

Chris: First – I disagree that Apple doesn’t take the market seriously. I think they do – but I agree with Doug – they couldn’t quite completely get what they wanted from the publishers.

This market has a big difference from the music market at the time Apple entered that market. At that time the record companies didn’t believe there WAS a market for legal downloads. So they agreed to the pricing never thinking it would have kind of real impact. And at first it didn’t – once Apple had their software on Windows the market took off and hasn’t looked back.

eBooks are not in the same place. True the market is still not truly exploded yet (not even with the Kindle etc.), but this time the publishers DO believe there is a market – they just want to figure out how best to capitalize on it. The one who really differentiates themselves with the fewest compromises (that matter to consumers) and the most convenient overall ecosystem will most likely win. So far NO ONE has fit the bill – not that I can see. Not yet.

But Apple has a way of putting stuff out there and then making BIG improvements that spur the market – and they DO listen and pay attention even when they don’t do what a particular group wants – so you have to be careful in assessing their position. Remember too – they are cash happy right now – they can afford to wait – watch – and tweak. Not all of the players have that luxury right now. So it really is anyones game!

Carly I agree that it’s still anyone’s game, but for Apple to make a dent they need to move faster. eBooks are growing in the triple digits, and unlike in the music industry, Apple is being beaten on two fronts. One, they have totally lost first mover advantage, both in terms of actually being fast to the market AND in the public perception. Say ebook, and people immediately think Kindle. Not Apple or the iPad. Two, Amazon has beaten the pants off Apple in the easy to use category. You can read your Kindle books on your PC, Mac, Blackberry, iPhone or iPad. You can only read your ibooks on your iPad. Amazon has been hammering their ability to sync between all those programs wirelessly for months now in blast emails. Apple needs to debut something similar ASAP just to match Amazon before they can even think of overtaking them.

And that’s the other issue…at what point does someone buying from one store move to another? When they have less than 50 books? 20 books? At some point you become a sticky customer, just because your library is already established, maybe you’re using gift certificates, etc. Plus the biggest reading audience (baby boomers) looooove their ebook readers for the font adjustability and eInk. Even if they switch to or augment with the iPad, they’re going to stick with the store that’s tied to their reader. The longer Apple waits to change this momentum the harder that’s going to be, especially because unlike with music, you can’t just burn a book to CD and swap it into another format.

I don’t doubt that if Apple really pushed they could make a dent, but it’s more than just walking in and boom, they own the market. I keep mentioning Amazon because they’ve out-Apple’d Apple in many ways, making so dead easy to use their service that you don’t want to stop. Locking iBooks solely to the iPad (not even letting you read them in iTunes!) is not a great start. We will see if that changes with an iBooks for the iPhone or Mac…but it’s NOT a done deal.

Dan So can someone explain why I would buy the new Clive Cussler book in iBooks and then be able to read them on my iPad and… No that’s it, when I can get it on Amazon for the iPad Kindle app and read it on my iPad, iPhone, iPod touch AND my Macs now. Sure the iBooks app had the cool two page layout in landscape but the ability to read my Kindle books on multiple machines and have the whisper sync function… Wow. Makes no sense to me at all why I would use iBooks.

What do you think of iBooks? Are you using it in place of any other ebook stores? Or are you sticking with what you can use on your other devices? Share your thoughts below!

3 Responses to " GearChat: Are iBooks a NY Times Bestseller, or a Publisher Reject? "

  1. JDTagish says:

    Bookshelf just put out an iPad format update, so it appears that other readers besides the Kindle app are also going to be able to update. No updates to Stanza tho…bummer.

    I do like the iBooks app, but I’m already ready for the next update that will allow you to change the background from something bright white with black text.

  2. GearChat: Are iBooks a NY Times Bestseller, or a Publisher Reject …: but this time the publishers DO believe ..

  3. GearChat: Are iBooks a NY Times Bestseller, or a Publisher Reject …: Dan So can someone explain why I would buy …

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