The Problem with Apple and eBooks, Redux
News of Apple’s acquisition of Booklamp is still percolating through the blogosphere but the pundits are already starting to weigh in. Make Cane has taken the position that Apple needs to expand beyond their hardware, but I’m not sure I would agree:
A Kindle book can be read on any damned platform — Kindle device, iOS, Android, Mac, PC.
Books bought from the Apple iBookstore are locked to Apple’s iOS and OS X hardware, period. Who wants book lock-in? No one.
Apple can think better recommendations will help, but if they want to be serious in selling books against Amazon — and with over one billion devices out there, they should — they need to liberate books from their Apple-only grasp.
And on the writer’s side of things, don’t require OS X hardware to submit to the iBookstore.
Yes, Apple would sell more ebooks if they expanded beyond their hardware, but when has that ever been Apple’s strategy?
Apple would sell more music if they released an Android app, and the same can be said for movies and ebooks. But Apple hasn’t done so, and I think it’s time to acknowledge that the strategy is working for Apple.
That is especially true in the case of ebooks. By my estimate, Apple sells more ebooks than B&N.
According to B&N’s last quarterly report, their annual ebook sales totaled $246 million. We don’t know how much Apple has made from ebooks in the past year, but we do know that their content sales (plus Apple Care fees) totaled $4.5 billion last quarter.
If ebooks account for even 5% of that four and a half billion dollars then Apple would be generating nearly as much ebook revenue in a single quarter as B&N generated in an entire fiscal year.
Now, that estimate of Apple’s ebook revenues is entirely supposition (sadly) so let me present you with another argument.
If Apple developed an iBooks app for Windows and Android they would be doubling their support costs and significantly increasing their development costs (perhaps as much as twice as high as it is now).
Would this double Apple’s content sales? Probably not.
Apple would be going up against Amazon, which is much better at selling content than Apple and already has solidly performing apps on any worthwhile platform. What’s more, Apple wouldn’t be able to put their competitors at a disadvantage; everyone would have in-app purchases.
This is perhaps Apple’s single greatest advantage on iOS, that they have made it difficult for everyone else to sell ebooks. This is probably the main reason why Apple is the second largest ebookstore in the world, and it is an advantage which Apple would not have on other platforms.
Don’t get me wrong, I would like to see Apple competing on more platforms. But the idea that more platforms equate with MOAR COMPETITION, BETTAR REVENUE is false. The real situation can’t be summed up as simply as Mike made it appear.
image found via Photobucket