Apple Continues to Fumble at Selling eBooks
Good Idea: Apple launches a new section of iTunes called Breakout Books which highlights ebooks from popular self-published authors. This will increase exposure for independent authors and sell more books.
Bad Idea: Apple won’t let you see the new section on your web browser. You have to use the iTunes app, making it impossible for anyone to find the ebooks via Google, websites, social networks, or pretty much the entire internet. Walled garden, much?
The new section launched today in the US, but Apple had been testing it in Australia. I caught the news today because Mark Coker of Smashwords pointed out last night that:
The bulk of the titles featured in the Breakout Books promotion were distributed by Smashwords, the world’s largest distributor of self-publishers. The books Apple selected share several common attributes such as positive reader reviews, author popularity at the Smashwords.com store, quality cover design, sales performance across the Smashwords retail distribution network, and other data-driven factors.
That’s an impressive step for self-published authors, and good for Apple to promote them, but do you know what would have been better? Making the section discoverable to the online world.
That’s what Amazon did when they launched a similar section in the Kindle Store in 2011. As I reported at the time:
Kindle Indie Books is going to highlight a limited selection of title published via KDP. Books will be chosen for this section through automated techniques and then selected by hand by the editorial staff. The Indie Store is currently limited to 7 of the genres and categories offered by the Kindle Store; according to the FAQ they are the more popular genres.
I know that Apple is having no trouble dominating music and video sales, but they’re not having the same success in ebooks. Perhaps it is time that Apple realized that ebooks are a different beast and require different methods. At the very least Apple is going to have to reconsider its obsession with selling content on its own hardware via its own app; it might not be hampering music and video sales but it’s likely having a negative effect on ebooks.
eBooks are the market that Apple joined 2 years too late. If they want to build market share then they need to play catch up. Restricting ebook sales to only their iOS is not the way to do that because it concedes the rest of the market to their competition.
Then again, Apple is a hardware company. I don’t think they care.