Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Are eBooks Apple's next frontier?

Having sold more than 6 billion songs to date, the iTunes Store has revolutionized the music industry. It also turned mobile software into a goldmine via the iPhone’s App Store, which recently surpassed 1.5 billion downloads. Apple has yet to enter the e-book market, but it is a short hop from music and software to literature. eBook downloads is the obvious next step for the entertainment mogul Apple has become. Lookout Amazon. To quote Wired:
"What can Apple do better with e-books? For textbooks or anthologies, Apple can give iTunes users the ability to download individual chapters, priced between a few cents to a few bucks each. It would be similar to how you can currently download individual song tracks from an album. It might even have the same earthshaking potential to transform an entire industry by refocusing it on the content people actually want instead of the bundles that publishers want them to buy. (Of course, Apple would likely offer the à-la-carte purchase model in addition to the option to purchase the entire book as one download — a more attractive option for shorter works such as novels.)"

"College students would love this: Teachers rarely assign an entire textbook, so they would save hundreds of dollars by downloading only a few chapters of each textbook. Apple is already popular in the education sector, so here’s even more money to milk from students, with the textbook industry worth an estimated $9.8 billion."

"Sci-fi fans might only want one story from an anthology, or a historical researcher might target certain subjects. All Apple has to do to secure the book publishers’ enthusiastic cooperation is to offer them a generous cut of the revenues, like the 70 percent it currently offers app developers."

When Wired asked students about their interest in Amazon’s large-format Kindle DX reader. Several of them said they couldn’t imagine ditching textbooks for a Kindle DX, foreseeing challenges with tasks such as notetaking, highlighting and switching between books while writing essays.

If its interface and capabilities are anything like the iPhone’s, a touchscreen tablet would make these student-oriented tasks as easy as a few swipes and taps — far more pleasant than clunking around with the Kindle’s cheap buttons and sluggish interface. Also, students would be able to type their papers on the tablet.

Finally, an Apple tablet would have color, making it better for displaying magazine pages, which could also be purchased through the iTunes Store. It wouldn’t be saddled with a slow e-ink screen, so it could display video and browse the web.

More from Wired:
"Let’s not forget to mention the multitude of other tasks an Apple tablet will likely be able to perform if developers decide to code applications for it. Think along the lines of an interactive remote control to enhance the movie-viewing experience on your TV, or a music video player to accompany the tunes blasting from your stereo. Or, heck, even an album-cover display screen for you to gaze at while listening to music. (For more on an Apple tablet’s advantages versus current e-book readers, see Dylan Tweney’s story “Large-Screen Kindle Won’t Mean Squat if Apple Tablet Arrives.”
The market for Apple here is huge. The challenge lies in establishing the right partnerships. If Apple weaves e-books into the iTunes Store, will book publishers hop on board? Given Apple’s success in numbers, probably.


Eric Rumsey said...

I don't see a link to the Wired article ...

David Booker said...

Eric, there is one in the article now. I quoted (stole with attribution) so much of it I guess I felt a link wasn't needed....but there is a bit more at the jump.