Why Apple’s iBooks will fail

I recently released my Dalmatia wine guide a couple of days ago. It was a happy occasion as the last edition of it was in print and thus a massive hardship to get out, sell, and transport. This is all electronic in an EPUB format. There are so many advantages to this over text, I can’t even begin to name all of them, but the most awesome part is that there is no physical book, so thus no inventory to stock up on and no book to have to mail someone. If someone wants it, they buy it, and because of this system, I can sell it for 1/3 the original print price. That’s a win for everyone.

While it’s for sale directly from the Vinologue site, I’ll probably get rid of that eventually and only have it available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and someday, Apple’s iBooks. As you can see by the links, it’s already listed and for sale on BN and the Amazon. BN put it up for sale one day after submitting it to them. Amazon had it listed within four hours and again, up for full sale in a day. Apple… well, I submitted it to them a week ago and it’s still “…currently being reviewed for quality assurance.” There’s no other notification, just that’s it’s being reviewed despite the fact that I heavily verified the file prior to sending it to them and included every scrap of meta data needed, including an ISBN number.

Apple likes to go about business this way. They seem exclusive and thus, cool. It works for electronic products that people buy. It even works for Apps. What it doesn’t work for, is books. Historically, trying to make a “cool” and “not cool” list when it comes to books generally leads to a massive backlash because no one likes being told what they can and can’t read. Sure, Apple might want to only include books that they think will sell, that’s their right, but at the same time, BN and Amazon opened up their platforms for anyone, no matter how little they sell and thus they have become the “open” markets. If there is one thing that people like (at least Americans anyways) it’s the concept of open.

There’s another benefit to easy publishing though which is that smaller, unknown authors are going to pimp the hell out of their books that they list to sell online. The known names don’t have to bother because people just automatically buy their books. This BBC article is a good read and a stark admission of that fact. So, by including smaller authors, a book selling platform will in turn have people advertising it. Maybe someone clicks there to find my book and decides that they don’t want it, but instead they buy full travel guide about Croatia (despite the lack of Croatian wine coverage in any of them, ahem). This is the ultimate cross selling, organic marketing experience anyone could hope for. Apple’s screening process loses all of this as well as seeming closed and dead.

Maybe they’ll start speeding things up and maybe they’ll realize that what may be good for App sales isn’t good for book sales. Maybe not. The very near future is showing that Steve Jobs is stepping down slowly and will inevitable kick the bucket at some point. After that, there is going to be a scramble for leadership and the company will probably end up with someone who just milks everything that Steve did and ultimately runs the company in to to the ground like what’s happened with IBM, Sun, and other once amazing tech titans.

Whatever the case, how about approving my damned book already, Apple? There are great photos that look stupendous on the iPad, so what are you waiting for?

4 Replies to “Why Apple’s iBooks will fail”

  1. Legal e-books won’t reach their potential until the publishers and authors bite the bullet and start selling them without DRM. And below the impulsive purchase threshold, which is probably $5. Right now Lonely Planet has the idea right: they sell guidebooks as PDFs by chapter. Something tells me that apple being the underdog here is more likely to benefit from moving in this direction than Amazon.

  2. Unfortunately, the DRM is needed. Within two weeks of putting my book out, with a more expensive DRM-free version, a pirated copy showed up on the web. Yes, a pirated copy for a $6 book not even published by anyone well-known. But, once it gets synced up and fully on sale at all the sites, I’ll probably look at the price as you’re right in that books need to be cheap for people to buy them. e-readers also need to become much more heavily spread so that if DRM-free were to become a reality, it needs to stay the case that people will buy it just for the ease of putting it on a device. Notice that Apple only started up DRM-free once iPods numbers in the hundreds of millions.

  3. Yeah, nobody likes listening to someone bitching. Telling a joke or two will always get you further, even if it’s a sarcastic one.

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