Apple is marginalizing its eBook market. The company has been waging war on third-party bookseller apps by competitors such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Google. What has kept Apple on top in the tablet market is how cunning and smart it is when moving its pieces on the chessboard. Amazon, B&N, and Google have long established book marketplaces online and in the Apple App Store. They have almost completely deleted the iBookstore from the equation. This meant consumers were buying the iPad, but using it to read eBooks sold by the competitors.
Philip Elmer-Dewitt of Apple 2.0 gives it to us straight: “In the past few days, Apple made good on the threat it issued in February when it revealed its so-called “subscription model.” Publishers and book resellers that wanted to do business on the App Store had to fork over 30% of every sale or take their business elsewhere. Putting a button on an app that took readers out of the App Store to make a purchase -as Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Google had been doing–would, as of June 30, no longer be permitted1.”
The deadline has past, of course, but the 30% royalty to Apple was not very appealing to its competitors. Instead, these booksellers shutdown their apps and re-launched them without their easy-to-use buttons. While users can still purchase and read eBooks from the third-party booksellers, there is no longer a button to transfer you directly to the Kindle Store or the Nook Store or Google Books to do your shopping. The iBookstore will be the most convenient and fastest store to access.
“As someone who has purchased and read several dozen books on the Kindle app in the past year, I have to say that this sucks. The Amazon bookstore on the iPad was a reader’s paradise: A enormous library with open shelves that let you browse at will, check reviews and more often than not read the first chapter for free. Without that Kindle Store button, however, I suspect many users — if not most — will have no idea how to get started,” Elmer-Dewitt says.
The question now is whether the ends will justify the means. This is for consumers to decide. Will the iPad enchant its users to switch to the iBookstore? Do they care that the iBookstore has a way smaller library than the Kindle Store? These are all questions that Apple has studied and they seem to think the consumers will favor them in the end.
Apple’s competitors have a handicap. They need the iPad to sell a maximum amount of eBooks because consumers are flocking to the device. This means they have to cooperate with the enemy.
The digital publishing world is starting to sound like a scene in Wall Street. Surely, Michael Douglas would know what to do. First, he would check the stocks on his iPad…