Home » Amazon, Apple » Content + curation + community = a new Apple Books

Content + curation + community = a new Apple Books

29 March 2016

From The Bookseller:

Apple is missing the boat on e-books.

And there’s billions of dollars at stake.

. . . .

If you’re buying an e-book, there’s only one place to go: Amazon. It’s not because of discovery; it’s mindshare. Most books aren’t discovered on Amazon – just bought there. Opportunity.But it’s easy to forget how deeply Amazon has burrowed into the online book world. Most Facebook shares or book reviews link to Amazon. Amazon results dominate bookish web searches. Goodreads is the online books community.

Conversely, iBooks is little more than a reader app and a buy link, with no community to speak of. Consider Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield (one of my favorites): Amazon/Goodreads have 2,600 reviews of the book, Apple has seven. A Google Search for “Gates of Fire” has Amazon 1st, Goodreads 4th, and Apple on page four – essentially invisible! The iBooks web experience is an ugly mess.

It’s instructive to look at Apple’s response when threatened by Spotify. Apple launched a major initiative, Apple Music. It was a “Manhattan Project” with internal and external components:  Apple acquired Beats for $3B and re-invented its music experience as Subscription + Curation + Beats 1 Radio. Connect, a centralised artist blog platform, was another unique addition. The result generates at least $1B annually.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Amazon, Apple

18 Comments to “Content + curation + community = a new Apple Books”

  1. “Content + curation + community = a new Apple Books”

    Only when they find a new iJobs and mix up a fresh batch of ikool-ade …

  2. iKinda hope Apple does a better job selling ebooks in the future. iMake about 40% of my sales from iBooks right now.

    • Are you in some area that would naturally generate a larger percentage of customers than normal for iBooks?

      Normal could be 0% to 20% of sales. I’d say 40% is high. Just like some indies are doing well at B&N.

      • I put out a new SF/F book in December. In January, Apple featured it on a curated recommendations list (I don’t remember which), which bumped it up on their SF/F ‘new and popular’ sub-list. Since the first book on that list was the new Star Wars book adaptation, and mine (The Spaceship Next Door) was second on the list for most of January, it captured a lot of second-hand eyeballs. January Apple sales were better than the January Amazon sales as a result. Apple’s fallen off since, but still looking much more robust than they did before December. I also had a BookBub in December, which raised the water level for all my books.

        The Spaceship Next Door is self-published, incidentally. Apple doesn’t appear to mind.

  3. Apple can do lots of things.
    But first they have to care enough to do it.

  4. Additional suggestions for Apple: a) Allow indie authors to upload their books directly even if they don’t use an Apple computer. Having to use Smashwords or Draft2Digital pushes authors away and discourages linking and promoting.

    2) Create an app for Android users. Currently, you can download Kindle books onto your free Kindle app on your iPad, but forget about downloading from iBooks onto your Android tablet.

    • I think you missed the subtext of one of the points of the Bookseller argument. Curation means weed out most of those pesky Indies to differentiate from the ‘cesspool’ of Amazon.

      The Bookseller rarely states it that obviously, but after you read a few of their articles it’s fairly easy to summarize.

  5. Do we know what Apple’s objectives are in books? If not, how can anyone tell Apple what it should do?

    Authors want Apple to devote more resources and energy to books so authors can prosper.

    Observing Apple’s behavior indicates it doesn’t embrace the objective that authors set for it. Without that objective, there is no reason Apple should do what authors want. There are lots of other places it can target its resources.

    It looks like Apple is content for Amazon to have the book market it does.

  6. Our family has owned iPhones since the iPhone 2, and iPads since the original release. We have owned a Mac desktop and a Macbook. I have supported Apple technology in the workplace. So I have more than passing experience with using their stuff.

    Apple fails at commerce software, generally. They are a hardware shop that only does software because they have to. They fail at it on two fronts: user experience in the storefront apps, and they fail at back end data management.

    iOS is a closed garden, and their hardware is popular, so if you have the hardware you’re locked into shopping the closed garden (short of jailbreaking which most consumers aren’t going to do).

    iTunes is terrible for discoverability of music and movies. It’s terrible for discoverability of iOS apps. The app – on all its platforms – is poorly designed, clunky, and crashes far too much. Associated services like Apple Music have been half-baked and barely function. Poor indexing is just the start of their discoverability problems.

    iBooks is just as terrible for discoverability of books.

    It would take a lot of talent hiring and a mindset shift at Apple to truly be competitive with Amazon. I don’t think it will happen; Apple just wants to sell you a new phone every year. The rest is merely a necessary evil.

    Amazon, however, keeps plugging away and slowly improving their music and movie area. Amazon completely dominates Apple in terms of its data infrastructure and management. It’s conceivable that at some point, they will overtake Apple in the movie and music arenas, as they’ve already dominated them in books.

    Apple’s a hardware company, not a good content company.

    • I’ve had the opposite experience with Apple Music. I’ve tried all the streaming services, and for me, Apple’s is the best. Tidal’s is a close second, but for me the lossless format doesn’t justify the doubled price.

      I try not to look at companies as hardware or software or product or service but experience. I tend to try to parse what experiences a company wants its customers to have. Looking at the Apple experience, they foster an experience wherein customers in their ecosystem experience as little friction as possible — but that ecosystem is otherwise closed. They’ve built a reputation as a high-priced, high-end gadget company, so people who don’t want those things know to avoid them, but people who want Apple tend toward loyalty.

      So the question as I see it is what sort of experience does Apple want readers to have — if any at all. It cares about screens and optics. And it cares about design.

      Honestly, I think Apple’s lack of innovation in the book world so far has been a result of its resentment toward corporate publishers in the DOJ case. Apple continues to believe that it wasn’t wrong to foster collusion, but I think they’re also bitter that the corporate publishers all settled en masse to leave Apple completely out to dry. Then again, it’s entirely possible that occurred because Apple was the only company with the cash necessary for a long, drawn-out court battle; it’s possible that for some of the publishers, fighting the case would have cost more than whatever they paid to settle (which allowed them to escape without admitting wrongdoing).

      What’s interesting is Apple provides tools that make it easy to create ebooks, but not easy to distribute them. Also, I see a lot of people complain about the iBookstore, but I also think that Apple isn’t interested in ebooks; they’re interested in apps. Forget the iBookstore; there’s a Books section in the app store. That’s where I bought the TS Eliot Wasteland and Shakespeare’s Sonnets apps (which are both awesome). Device 6, which is an ebook disguised as a game, has done really well in the Games section.

      Does every book want to be an app? Arguably not. But Apple has made available a lot of tools and resources for any authors and developers who want to use them. That most haven’t isn’t really Apple’s fault.

      • Apple can’t be too happy with the BPH’s war on ebooks and their crowing about “ebook declines” and “print resurgence”.
        They’re not exactly giving Apple much of an incentive to throw money to grow a segment they are are actively trying to reduce.

      • We have an Apple Music sub for our family, and it really struggles with playlists. I find more new (to me) artists on youtube, of all places, recommended alongside artists I like, or included in user-created playlists I find via locating a song I wanted to hear again.

        I really do maintain that all of Apple’s storefronts suffer terrible discoverability issues. I work in IT, as do members of my family and many friends. Some of them have had successful apps. But many fantastic apps languish.

        The software itself is not well designed. We use Windows desktops, and iTunes is a horrible bloated beast that barely functions. Crashes, phone/pad sync problems, you name it. And that’s not counting the user interface which needs so so so much improvement.

        This article sums up a good portion of what’s at issue. http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/07/why-is-itunes-so-bad/399833/

        • Interesting. Do you use the “For You” function, or explore just starting a radio station based on an artist? My “For You” was always good, if generally Sinatra-heavy, but the radio function is always good.

          I don’t know much about software design so I can’t speak to that, but I do wonder if the sync problems et al. are a Windows thing. We use Apple’s ecosystem pretty much exclusively (where we don’t use Amazon), and I’ve experienced no crashes or sync problems.

          Thanks for the article. I’m not a big iTunes fan, myself, but then lately I just pick a random song in the library and set to shuffle, and I don’t think about it. Makes for good discovery when you have lots of songs in the library.

  7. If I worked at Apple AND were interested in competing with Amazon on books, I would look at all the complaints about Amazon – and see if I could do reviews better, and IP better (piracy, plagiarism).

    There is plenty of space for improvement – some company just has to care. And some things work better when done properly from the ground up that are difficult to do when you have as many reviews to handle/police/moderate as Amazon/Goodreads.

    Not saying it can be done, just that there seems to be a LOT of complaining going on.

  8. “We’ve learned that e-books and physical books aren’t on a collision course. Apple and the book industry shouldn’t be either. Indie bookstores HATE Amazon, but could learn to love Apple. Donate Macs to every one of them. Offer bookstores a home inside Apple Books where they can market themselves and their books. Offer them commissions when their customers buy e-books in-store. Sponsor Expresso book-printing machines in bookstores.”

    Apple should give them ponies!
    Apple should give everybody ponies!

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