From Digital Book World:
The news of Apple rebranding the iBooks Store to Apple Books, and preparing a fresh new entry in the digital publishing landscape, is welcome.
Apple’s bookstore, much like many other parts of the company these days, has suffered from neglect. The store, as it is currently, evokes a vision of tumbleweed blowing through an empty desert: nobody’s home, nobody cares, and it’s quite clear there is no larger strategy present.
Apple did the right thing by going outside the company and hiring Kashif Zafar, by all appearances an accomplished publishing business mind, originating out of an engineering background. That is, frankly, exactly what Apple needs, as their digital book store needs to be re-engineered from the ground up.
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1) Deploy iBooks Author anew
Apple, believe it or not, comes right out of the gate with one strong competitive advantage: they have a relatively-easy-to-use, vertically-integrated, HTML5-based authoring tool that has grown an international user base since it was introduced in 2012.
When iBooks Author was first released, it was ahead of its time. And like everything that is ahead of its time, it was poorly understood and not nearly as well utilized as it should have been.
Fast forward six years later, and digital book readers are clamoring for new types of experiences.
The biggest problem with iBooks Author has always been the mediocrity of the iBooks Store. Publishers producing phenomenal content using iBooks Author have met poor sales, thanks to poor searchability and poor discoverability, over and over and over again.
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3) Apple Books needs to match Amazon on key criteria
The Apple Books Store needs to be as searchable as Amazon. Historically, the search function within the iBooks Store has been flat-out broken.
The Apple Books Store needs to be creative in how it makes books discoverable. Undoubtedly, this will be a combination of algorithmic competency and human curation.
With both searchability and discoverability, Siri needs to play a role as Apple ramps up their voice-first computing efforts. Intelligent voice integration needs to be part of the fabric of the Apple Books experience.
The Apple Books Store needs to be author and publisher-friendly. This means giving authors and publishers deep flexibility with pricing (including bundling / discounting), deep flexibility in how their books are represented within the store (control over author-specific landing pages would be a good place to start), and deep flexibility in marketing (including ability to have hosted video book trailers, deep control over sample content, and more).
There is plenty of opportunity for Apple to compete here. Every single product page on Amazon.com looks precisely the same way, in exactly the same format. Amazon’s practical blandness can be bested by a highly-functional, colorful and vibrant, individualistic approach that holds serve in key areas while innovating beyond what Amazon offers in others.
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5) Go cross-platform anywhere and everywhere
Apple’s walled-garden approach is not compatible with the interests of readers, who want to be able to read their purchased books on whatever device they choose.
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The publishing industry – the ENTIRE publishing industry, which goes far, far beyond just traditional publishers obviously – desperately needs a viable competitor to Amazon.
Link to the rest at Digital Book World
PG says competition is always good.
Apple used to be a fierce competitor and achieved dominant success in the iPhone/iPad markets.
Apple also did a phenomenal job of linking its products to a cool personal style/lifestyle image. You might be working a temp job for minimum wage and living in a sub-basement closet, but when you hit the street, your iPhone instantly improved your image so much you took a selfie.
Because of high product quality and that image thing, Apple managed to price its products higher than its competitors and still maintain a dominant sales position.
In some categories.
In personal computers, Apple had a 7% share worldwide in 2016 compared to Lenovo at 21%, HP at 20% and Dell at 16%. Apple makes great computer hardware, but it’s dominant only in some niche markets in a Windows world. iPhone and Windows desktop/laptop is a typical tech combination.
For a growing number of small web startups, Chromebooks are the thing for everybody who is not a programmer. Marketing doesn’t need Macs to run the blog, build a presence on Twitter and Instagram and check out what competitors are doing online.
Apple is really a phone company. It doesn’t dominate any other significant markets. (And Apple is definitely not dominant in major Asian phone markets.)
PG isn’t the only one who suspects that Steve Jobs was the head magician who made all the sub-magicians at Apple work right and not do ordinary things.
The most important post-Jobs product launch happened with the iPhoneX in September.
Apple-watchers more expert than PG think the Apple magic that usually accompanies a major iPhone launch just wasn’t there. Apple fanboys and fangirls all stood in line and jumped in right away, but the far bigger wave that usually follows may not have been so large. Apple’s first post-iPhoneX earnings report is anxiously awaited.
Back to the main point, PG thinks the ebookstore ship has sailed – from Seattle. As the old saying goes, you only get one chance to make a good first impression and Apple blew that chance with its first store. From an author standpoint, PG marked it as undesirable right after its opening when it appeared that Apple hardware was necessary to prepare books for the store.
The Amazon bookstore is 100% platform agnostic and Amazon doesn’t care if you access it from an iPhone or a homebrew Linux computer. Amazon works hard to create a single great customer experience without spending any time or money on enhanced Apple-only features.
Plus Amazon has a huge cache of data about how to sell books and what the world’s largest collection of online customers buys – both inside and outside of the bookstore. In the US, in France, in Canada, in Scotland, in Chicago, in Dayton, in Boulder, in Bel Air, in Steamboat Springs, in Rocky Comfort and Rhyolite.
PG doesn’t see many people talk about the huge value for prospective customers that lives in Amazon’s product reviews, including the millions of book reviews it has collected.
It’s easy to make snide comments about the intelligence, education and motivation of some of the reviewers, but most book buyers have developed a pretty good filter to distinguish quality Amazon reviews from those that originated in a packed room in India.
PG suggests that large numbers of reviews and the metadata Amazon presents when a book has received a large number of reviews – Top Customer Reviews, Most Recent Customer Reviews, Also Boughts and Rated by Customers Interested In, which shows how the customers interested in specific topics rated the book PG is considering, are valuable assets for shoppers of all tastes.
Even if Apple copies all of Amazon’s bookstore features, the lack of this giant pile of data from previous buyers will produce an inferior experience.
As far as indie authors are concerned, the key indicator for PG will be whether Apple is willing to meet or beat Amazon royalty rates.
He noted that the latest (and last?) version of the Nook Store has a top indie royalty rate of 65%. That the big brains at Barnes & Noble couldn’t bring themselves to go all the way to 70% is one of the many reasons why the company is circling the drain.
When the big brains at Apple hit speed dial to call PG about their new bookstore, he’s going to say, “75%. 80% for bestsellers.”