Most people I know who have an iPhone and love ebooks, use the Kindle app. They don’t shop from Apple’s iBookstore.
There are several reason for this:
- If you buy a book in the iBookstore, you have to read it on your iPad or iPhone or iTouch — and only there. With Amazon, you can read your ebook on your home computer, work computer, iPhone, Android, Blackberry — oh, and on that device known as a Kindle. Apple says it is working on an app that will allow people to read their ebooks on their computers, but no word on when it will be available.
- The book selection of the iBookstore is pathetic. It’s been more than six months since the iBookstore went live and the selection doesn’t even come close to Amazon.
- The home page of the iBookstore promotes only the bestsellers. With Amazon, the selection on the home page is customized (for better or worse) based on your prior purchases and reading habits. But this gives Amazon a bit of personality — or a reflection of your personality. The iBookstore is, by comparison, bland and uninviting.
- There is no community. Amazon hosts hundreds of reader forums. Some of them — particularly the Kindle forums — are extremely active. These people are voracious readers and they love to share thoughts on the books they’re reading. But Apple doesn’t really understand communities.
As a publisher, I have additional problems with the iBookstore:
- Support is almost nonexistent. If you email Amazon for support, you’ll get a reply within a day or two. With Apple, a reply takes, on average, 2 to three weeks. I’m not kidding. I had a technical issue with The Tourist Trail two months ago. The book was taken offline by Apple and as of today it is still not live.
- The iBookstore interface is difficult to use. With Amazon, uploading a book is painless and fast. You can manage pricing, meta data, and book descriptions with ease. But with the iBookstore, the interface is an awful experience. It’s ironic in a way because Apple prides itself on usability. But if you’re a publisher, you get to see a side of Apple that most people don’t see. And it’s not all that user friendly.
- As a publisher, I can’t send you a link to books on Apple’s iBookstore. Unlike Amazon, the Apple bookstore is separate from the Internet, so I have to tell people to go to the iBookstore and search for it. With Amazon, I can send links, short links, even sample chapters to people.
Why am I unloading on Apple like this?
Partly because I’d like to see the iBookstore succeed. I’d like to see a healthy marketplace for ebooks. I don’t want to see Amazon be the only game in town.
But I’m also unloading on Apple because the company now appears to be playing hardball with Amazon. You can read the details here.
People are speculating that Apple is going to require Amazon to remove its links to the Amazon store from within the Kindle app (or share 30% of all revenue). Given the slim profit margins of publishing, I can’t imagine Amazon sharing 30% with Apple. So we could have an interesting standoff in the months ahead. And I can see Amazon aligning itself more closely with Google’s Android platform as a result.
Apple makes the case that it should receive a cut from commerce that originates from within its platform. The logic makes perfect sense, though the 30% cut makes less sense, particularly if the vendor in question offers its own ecommerce platform — and this platform is far superior.
It’s hard for me to understand why Apple would want to push vendors to work more closely with Google and invest more heavily on web-based apps, bypassing the App Store entirely. But, until things change, this is exactly what is happening.