I might be seeing conspiracies where there aren’t any, but I think I see a pattern in many business decisions going on in the eBook market lately. We’re all sitting on the edge of our seats waiting for the outcome of the in-app purchasing drama, and so far no one’s (overtly) talking. But reading between the lines tells a very different story…
1) Apple can’t be happy with how iBooks has performed so far. 100 million books downloads is an empty number, especially since everyone who downloads iBooks gets one download to go with it. With a very low number of books in iBooks (just around 100,000, versus 2 million+ in Amazon and B&N), iBooks is, to be blunt, a fart in the wind for ebooks.
(The between the lines translation: Apple made a big deal about iBooks, acted like they were going to change publishing, and basically failed. They can’t be happy about that, and they don’t want to lose more content buyers to Amazon and B&N.)
2) Amazon has announced AT&T is going to be carrying Kindles in their stores.
(TBTLT: Amazon is looking for anyplace to get Kindles into people’s hands. Stocking the Kindle alongside the iPad that might not be offering a Kindle app softens the blow.)
3) B&N has been experimenting with selling NOOKcolors for $199 on eBay.
(TBTLT: Either B&N has a huge surplus, or they’re trying to determine if there’s enough volume in sales at $199 to overcome the $50 price drop. But a NOOKcolor at $199 suddenly looks a lot more attractive than most of the tablet competition, even if you aren’t going to root it. And if they can’t rely on the iPad to provide a great NOOK/NOOKkids experience, dropping the price makes the NOOKcolor more accessible as an alternative.)
4) Random House goes agency, joins iBooks.
(TBTLT: Random House never said they would never go agency, just that they were waiting to see what happened. It’s possible this timing is coincidental and simply lines up with the iPad 2. But iBooks isn’t going to be a major player, even with Random House’s 17,000 ebook additions…unless it’s the only bookstore standing. In that case, if Random House wants to sell books on the iPad, they need to go agency to join iBooks. Just saying…)
5) No one is saying this isn’t happening.
(TBTLT: I reached out to reps from a few ebook stores, and the silence is deafening and damning. Kobo redirected me to their blog post from the other day, which is basically summed up as “Hey, good, it’s business as usual. We have no idea how long that will last.” B&N…hasn’t answered yet. My hope is that it’s nothing, but my fear is that if they were sure about their iOS future they’d be screaming it from the rooftops. So why isn’t anyone out there saying it’s going to be ok? Maybe because it isn’t.)
As I said, I could be jumping at shadows…but none of this is outside the realm of possibility. And all of these, from Random House to Amazon and AT&T, are normal business decisions on the surface. But if some sort of eBookpocalypse hits, all these moves also serve to support and/or further the interests of each company in a world where iBooks is it for iOS. So am I being paranoid? Or are we seeing the beginning moves on a chess board that’s going to radically alter the ebook market as we know it?