Thursday, January 19, 2012

Will Apple’s Author and iBooks2 challenge Kindle Select?

Screen capture credit: Apple Inc.
You gotta feel for Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords: Apple has just released a new iBooks2 app for the iPad2 and a free iBook Author application, which make it Apple-easy to publish e-books on the revamped iBookstore.

In its inimitable way (although many try to imitate it), Apple made a big splash at the Guggenheim Museum in New York today (I’m reading news reports ) with an announcement of epub-version textbooks. Although for now they’re only available in the US, they’re priced at $14.99, and the books are from the three major textbook publishers: Pearson, McGraw-Hill and Houghton Mifflin.

Major news outlets seem to be agreeing with Apple’s prediction that this will be a major benefit for students. Some news sources predict that college and universities will be quicker to use e-textbooks than high schools because of the relatively high cost of iPads. However, high-school textbooks can cost $80 or more — Pearson’s core Biology textbook is $80.97 US. A single iPad can hold all the textbooks for a student. With a $499 iPad plus $120 (max) for eight e-textbooks, that’s a savings of $20 per student. Multiply that be the number of students in the US alone …

A long-awaited shakeup

Once again, Apple has upset the traditional publishing industry to the immense benefit of the information-consuming world. Apple is also offering a huge help to the education system. And at the same time, Apple will shake up the publishing industry. It’s been shaken up a lot over the past several years, but its response hasn’t helped it. Instead of embracing the tectonic changes, publishing has tried to cope by building greater barriers. It’s like loading boulders onto the Titanic AFTER it hits the iceberg.

Apple is also offering publishing a solution, or at least a way to move forward. Along with the update to the iBookstore and iBooks, Apple is also releasing the new iBook Author app — a free application that allows anyone to create e-books in the .epub format. It even supports colour images and even video.

Finally, Apple is now allowing any authors to publish books on the iBookstore for free (Apple takes a 30 percent royalty, like Amazon). There is no up-front fee. Those with existing iTunes Connect accounts will have to set up a new account, the company says.

It upsets the new publishing industry, too

This is going to be a big challenge to Amazon’s dominance of the electronic book market—some say Amazon sells 90 percent of the e-books in the world. Apple’s ability to create media buzz could bring more readers to its iBookstore, which until now has not had a huge impact in the e-book market.

The iBook Author app and publishing facility could also be a big challenge, especially if there is a way to borrow books as with Amazon’s Kindle Select program. It could put a real dent in its appeal to small publishers and independent authors, too, who have to make their books exclusive to Amazon to participate in the program.

As for Smashwords and its founder, Mark Coker? He must be fuming. First, Amazon’s Kindle Select program takes away content from authors who, understandably, opt for the retailer with the 90 percent market share. Now, if iBook Author and the uploading process are as intuitive, smooth and visually attractive as every other Apple product, they’ll make his Smashwords system obsolete for the Macintosh users among those authors who are left. It’s a shame, really, because Smashwords provided that entry point to the e-book world for so many.

If you’re an author, I’d love to get some comments from you about this.


  1. I feel for smash words as well. I wasn't aware of this new publishing capability by apple. What I like about smashwords is I can upload it once and people can get any format they like. I think the problem is a misconception by readers that it will be difficult to get the book onto their device as it doesn't go automatically like the nook and kindle. Not sure the solution. Maybe a video page with instructions and some kind of discount for regular users like B&N does (except free). That way they can beat the amazon price without amazon dropping theirs to match.

    1. A major wrinkle that I did not realize at the time of posting, originally, was that Apple's licensing agreement when you publish through the iBook Author app into the new iBookstore is that you have to make the work exclusive. A number of others have commented on this, as well, and I'm not certain just how restrictive the process is.
      If ALL content on the iBookstore now has to be exclusive, that will severely limit Apple. WIll having a separate ISBN be enough? I'd like to hear from others about this.

  2. I can't see too many people rushing to sign up with Apple if the content has to be exlusive to them.

  3. If people are doing novels or word / text only books smashwords may still be the way to go
    For some, BUT people like myself needing to easily bring in illustrations will be quickly drawn to this new apple set up. I already prefer iBooks reader because of the various note taking ability & being able to print or email my notes, smashwords is great because it does offer so many different formats for different readers. I, as an illustrator hoping to work on children's books, need the ease of getting the illustrations with the correct text (which smashwords makes difficult.

  4. I went to the link and read the information. It sounds more complicated than publishing on Smashwords or Kindle. At this point, we are not interested. Who knows what the future will bring, though?